Wednesday, December 24, 2008



Brian Ardan a native of Trevorton in Northumberland County County has written a fantastic new book on the Slavic Community in the Anthracite Region. Brian has lived and worked in Slavic-Language speaking countries such as Poland, Bosnia, and Montenegro. In his current project,he examines Slavic culture as it relates to the anthracite coal region.
Brian has a master's degree in Slavic Studies and library and information science, He currently serves on the faculty at Lock Haven University. As a local coal region native, he was very pleased to have the opportunity to present a work that combines professional interests with his enthusiasm for the anthracite coal region and its residents.
Brian Ardan maintains an active involvement and interest in internationally-related topics at LHU.He recently co-presented a paper in Prague, Czech Republic dealing with internationalization efforts on small college campuses. He is faculty advisor to a newly forming Slavic's Club, comprised mainly of students from Russia and Ukraine. He has also produced a musical CD with well known Slavic folk singer, Julia Doszna, From Poland.
This book will inspire the Polish, Slovak, Ukrainian, Carpatho-Rusyn, Slovenian,or other Slavic heritage to learn more about their culturally, rich and historically significant, roots.

I am sure anybody of Slavic heritage will enjoy this book. And once agian it is produced in the great format set by Arcadia Publishing in their fantastic Images of America Series with 128 pages of historical info and more than two hundred historical photographs.


THe book will be avaialble on January 5, 2009. Check your local book stores here in the coal region. If you want to buy directly from the publisher contact Arcadia on line at

I know you will enjoy this book

Stu Richards

Sunday, November 30, 2008



Here is the story of a Canal Boat Captain from Schuylkill Haven who tragically died while working on the canal. I have come across a lot of good Schuylkill Canal info recently and plan to do a few stories on the all but forgotten men who worked on the canal.


November 20, 1868

Pottsville Miners Journal

About 7 o’clock last Wednesday evening, Henry Witman a boatman from Schuylkill Haven, fell from his boat, the “Gabriella” while passing down the Canal opposite Pottstown. It appears that on leaving home he was unable to procure sufficient hands, and at the time the accident occurred was alone on the boat, excepting two children, a boy of 13 years and a girl of 11. He had complained of feeling unwell during the afternoon, and had intended stopping for the night just below where he fell overboard. It is believed that he must have fallen off the boat during a sudden attack of cramp or other illness, as he is a good swimmer, and could easily have gotten out of the water had nothing been the matter. The first intimation that anything was wrong was the boat striking a scow, when it was ascertained that no person was steering, and some men from the scow went aboard the boat and found nobody but the two children, who were asleep in the cabin. Search was made for the body that night, and on Thursday and Friday and Saturday without success, but on Sunday morning it was found near Stover’s pond. No marks or injuries of any kind could be found on the person of the deceased. An inquest was held by A.L. Whitman and a verdict of accidental drowning was rendered by the jury. Witman was about 39 years of age, and leaves a wife and six small children.

To a correspondent at Schuylkill Haven we are indebted for the following additional particulars in reference to this unfortunate case:
The body of Henry Witman who was drowned in Pottstown level on the 11th, was found on Saturday at 10 ½ A.M.
Wednesday the 11th was very cold and windy day. It appears that Mr. Witman had entered the cabin of his boat to clad himself preparatory to steering for the night. Being heavily clad with the flaps of his fur cap extending over his ears, heavy under clothing, an army overcoat, the cape of which being up over his head, the better to protect him from the wind and severe cold, and pair of heavy boots, the unfortunate man took charge of the helm intending to run all night. He had told his son and daughter to retire for the night little expecting that he would so soon fall to rise no more. It is assumed that while his boat was moving around the short curve where his body was found, he attempted to shift the boat suddenly, and while in the act slipped on the icy stern and fell overboard. Being heavily clothed he could make no headway, although his appearance when found plainly indicated that he made desperate attempt to save himself, his arms being extended in the swimming posture. But his cape over head no doubt prevented him from seeing his course and unfortunately he made headway in the wrong direction towards the bern side. In his struggle for life he had no assistance, and it was not until the boat ran against the bank that his absence was first discovered.

Search was at once made for the body but it was not found until the company emptied the level. The deceased was an estimable citizen, and his loss is mourned by the whole community in which he resided. He leaves a wife and six children. He was buried Tuesday afternoon, the 17th, his remains being followed to the grave by Lexington Degree Council No, 16 O.U.A.M. Metamora council, No. 66 OUAM of which he was a member.

Saturday, November 22, 2008


For Veterans Day this year the Historical Society of Schuylkill County is honoring the men and women of Schuylkill County for the sacrifices they made for their families, communities, and country. A display of some of the wonderful collection of military artifacts, covering all branches of the armed forces from the Spanish American to the Vietnam War is on display. And set up in the museum room.

The exhibit contains uniforms of many styles and era’s including the famous “Eisenhower” jacket from the 1940’s, and a complete Dough boy inform of World War 1. German Helmets of various design brought home by the 103rd Engineers during WW1. And to include many bayonets, daggers dog, tags, medals and ribbons from all wars. There is also a fantastic collection of posters and signs from WWI and WWII.

If you are in the area take the time to drop in and check it out. Also take the opportunity to visit the fabulous Civil War museum located in the Society.

FRIDAY 10 A.M.-4 P.M.




Wednesday, November 12, 2008

43rd Anniversary of The Mollie Maguire Trials in Court

James McParlan..Alias James McKenna.. Pinkerton Detective.
Here is a great little article in reference to the Mollie Maguire Saga.

In May 1919 this article was published in the Pottsville Journal on the 43rd Anniversary of the Molly Maguire Trials.

Meredith, better known as “Tim” Davis, formerly identified with the Journal Staff, of this city, where he was born and reared, whose sister, Miss Claire, is still a resident here wrote entertainingly in Sunday’s North American of James McParlan, the famous Pinkerton detective, whose career is now ended.
In a signed article dated Denver, Colo. Where “Tim” holds a desk on one of the leading dailies of that western city, he says;
“It was just forty three years ago this month May, 1876 that the little courthouse in Pottsville, Pa. was besieged by such a throng as it never had known before and has never known since. Facing the three judges of the court were ringleaders of the notorious band of Mollie Maguire’s, men whose deeds of outlawry had shamed the name of Pennsylvania before the eyes of the rest of the country, and whose career was brought to an inglorious end by James McParlan, who is now dying in Denver.
“The case had barely got under headway when the most dramatic incident of all the trials that had taken place or that were to come was staged in this little room ion the courthouse. Presiding over the trial of the five Mollie Maguire’s was Judge Cyrus L. Pershing, an uncle if memory serves me right of General John J. Pershing, of the American Army; associated with him were Judges David B. Green and T.H. Walker. A son of Judge Walker, Lieutenant Douglas B. Green, was an officer in Pershing’s Army and was killed in action during one of the big battles of the Pennsylvania Iron Division in France.
“An array of legal talent hardly parallel in Pennsylvania jurisprudence was engaged on each side. For the Commonwealth there was George R. Kaercher, district attorney; Franklin B. Gowen, president of the Philadelphia and Reading Coal and Iron Companies; F.W. Hughes, General Charles Albright, and Guy Farquhar; for the defense were Lin Bartholomew, John W. Ryon and Daniel Kalbfus.
“As the prosecution began to unfold its plan of attack this May in 76, District Attorney Kaercher called the names of “James McParlan,” A sturdy, ruddy complexioned young Irishman, with sandy hair and a twinkling eye, ascended the witness stand. A murmur of dissent arose from the table of the defense.
“That isn’t James McParlan, its Jim McKenna!” exclaimed some of the defendants. “It s Jim McKenna, one of our crowd. Has he turned state’s evidence now?”
“Then the cool questioning of District Attorney Kaercher began. “What is your full name,” he asked the witness.
“James McParlan, “said the witness.
“What name have you been going under for the last few years?” “James McKenna, “s the reply.
“What is your business?” was the next question.
“I am a Pinkerton Detective,” said McParlan.
“And with that revelation began the doom of the Mollie Maguire’s. Try as they might, the lawyers for the defense were unable to shake the young detective’s recital of the Mollies operations in the hard coal region of eastern Pennsylvania during the preceding four or five years. McParlan had names, dates, locations, murders, slayers-everything- at his fingers and tongue’s lips.
It was the most dramatic denouncement to the most tragic series of homicides and other deeds of violence that American criminology records can show, even the outburst of the Allen gang of mountain outlaws in southwestern Virginia in 1912 when half a dozen clansmen assassinated a judge, a commonwealth’s attorney, a sheriff, a juror and a witness in the Hillsville courtroom could not equal in cruelty and premeditation the outrages committed by the Mollies.
“The Allen’s whose trials I covered in Wytheville, Va. Right after the shootings, were men of the mountains who were brought up to that kind of feudal warfare, you read about John Fox Jr’s Novels. The Mollies were men who organized solely for the purpose of combating the constituted authorities and of wreaking there displeasure, even to the point of murder, upon any who crossed their path.
“But today there may be those who wonder why it was so difficult to break up this band of outlaws. I have had the story from McParlan’s own lips, out here in Denver as he chatted with me of the days around Pottsville, (Incidentally my birth place) and asked me on some of his old friends there whom he had not seen for thirty years or more.
“Of course I had been brought up on stories of the Mollie Maguire’s back home. I had saloons and house pointed out to me by my mother as places where the Mollies would hold rendezvous; I had in fact, witnessed, as a reporter for Pottsville papers, two hangings on the same scaffold on which were hanged the five Mollies into whose trial McParlan had thrown his verbal bombshell.
“But familiar as I was with the scenes and with many of the surviving lawyers and some of the surviving Mollies in Pottsville and surrounding towns of Schuylkill County, I never tired of hearing McParlan himself tell in picturesque brogue which he never lost, of those stirring days which he risked his life every minute of four or five years as a member of the Mollies, gathering evidence which later to convict almost 100 of the outlaws and send more than a score to the gallows.
“It is history how McParlan went to Pottsville in October, 1871 on the secret mission known only to Allen Pinkerton, head of the detective agency; Franklin B. Gowen, president of the P&R companies, and Superintendent Franklin of the Pinkerton Agency; of how he mingled among the Irish miners of Schuylkill , Carbon and adjoining counties; of how he finally worked his way into the confidence of some of the leading Mollies, whose reign of lawlessness had baffled local and state authorities for several years; on how at length was accepted as a member of the secret organization and came, in time to be regarded by the county and town police as one of the most desperate of the outlaws; of how he braved all manner of risks to send in a nightly report to Philadelphia HQ in secret code. Of course concerning his operations for the day.

Monday, November 10, 2008

Robbing Pillars A Very Great Danger

It was always said that robbing the pillars was one of the most dangerous jobs in the mine.

Pottsville Journal. September 28, 1891.


Thrilling Experience of Sixteen Miners in a Colliery

Suddenly Cut off From Escape by A ninety Foot chasm- Were Robbing the Pillars

Shamokin, Pa. Sept. 27---For eight hours sixteen men were imprisoned in an old chamber in the Hickory Ridge coal mine, not knowing what second they would be crushed to death. They were Carson Delong, Zach Hann, Frank Walthoff, Daniel Oyster and a dozen Hungarian and Italians.
When they entered the mine in the morning Foreman Reinhardt directed them to rob pillars. This is consider3d the most dangerous of inside work. A pillar divides one breast or chamber from another, and after all the coal is taken from the chamber the pillar is usually removed.
An hour after the first pick had been sunk into the coal the miners then were startled to find that the bottom of the gangway was cracking in hundreds of places, while trough the fissures came a blast of air an dirt. A violent swaying then ensued mingled with the sudden roar and crunching of coal. Then came a succession of reports, like artillery batteries going off.
“Boys” shrieked Hann, “The chain filler must be running, and if we don’t get out of here it means death.”
A rush was made for the closest chamber. Wolhoff was in the rear and was lifted tot eh ledge in safety just as the bottom of the place they had left dropped and revealed a yawning chasm 100 feet deep and 90 feet wide. When the pillar began to disappear the men on the lower level escaped.
The imprisoned men were surrounded on all sides by falling coal. They went up the chamber as far as possible and had a conference. They found that there was no possible way out other than by the way they had entered. But there was an impassable chasm between them and it. Suddenly they heard voices.
“Are you alive” cried foreman Reinhardt, who, with Tom Llewellyn and David Williams, had gained entrance to the gangway as soon as the rush of coal occured. The rescuing party was overjoyed.
How to get the miners across the abyss was next in order. A rope was procured and for four hours Reinhardt and his men tried to cast an end across. Sometimes it would land on a treacherous ledger almost within reach, and then it would go whistling down in darkness and dust.
Once it fell on a rock which seemed solid, but Dan Oyster was about to seize it, the rock and rope went down. The men then grew timid and glanced into each others faces with fear. They were almost without oil for their lamps, and had only what was in their cans. Was it to be a second Jeansville Horror, and yet within shouting distance of rescuers?
These gloomy meditations were cut short by a whirling noise and the crack of a whip. The prayed for rope had fallen at their feet.
“Fasten your end of the rope to a timber,” they heard the voice cry, “And we will do the same.”
Once securely tied about a post, the men consulted as to who would make the first attempt to cross the chasm hand over hand suspended from the rope. It was a perilous undertaking, but as the way lead to liberty it did not take long for Carson Delong to make up his mind to try it. Bidding his comrade’s goodbye the intrepid fellow flung himself into space and he went hand over hand.
The rope cracked and swayed. Several times he thought he would fall, but with strained muscles and stout heart Delong went on and on, and at last was safe. The others followed, and when the last had crossed they first wept like children and cheered loud and long. When they were hoisted to the surface 2,000 persons cheered and danced with joy.


Friday, October 31, 2008

A Horse Named.."OLD BILLY" From Mahanoy City

I found this story in the Pottsville Chronicle. And being a horse and mule lover this story was great. What a great old horse!

I found this old photo in my collection of mining pic's, all it said on the back was Mahanoy City 1892..Maybe one of these guy's is Old Billy".. Although the mountains in the background look a little strange? ....Oh well!

May 18, 1880
Pottsville Evening Chronicle

Old Billy
A Horse Who Has A History

In 1864 Old Billy horse the subject of this article was condemned by the Government of the United States as being unfit for service, and was branded on the shoulder with the condemned brand. Upon his being condemned a butcher named Kroll, of Pottsville purchased him from the government for $21 and afterwards sold him to Mr. Joe Enich, of this place. (Mahanoy City) who in the fore part of 1865 sold him to Mr. Sibb, who was then in the livery business in Mahanoy city. In August, 1865 Mr. J.D. Lutz bought out Mr. Sibb and Billy was one of the horses he bought. Since that time to the present he has been in the possession of Mr. Lutz, and has proved himself a very valuable animal. At the time that Mr. Lutz got him he was beyond telling his age, and consequently he is at least over 25 years of age. If we would count only an average of 12 miles a day since Mr. Lutz has owned him he would have travelled 63,540 miles, not counting what he travelled before Mr. Lutz procured him, and, as Joseph says, many and many a day that horse has made 60 and 65 miles, and very few are the days that he has lain idle in the stable. He is as gentle as a child and as intelligent as some human beings. When Professor Gleason travelled through this district he remarked that he could take Old Billy and after one day’s rehearsal make him perform on the stage. Mr. Lutz never ties him in the sable, and if the cows get loose and Mr. Lutz wants them put out of the stable, all he has to do is go and open Old Billy’s box stall and tell him what is wanted of him, and he will chase them out and will not attempt to harm them. If Mr. Lutz wants to harness him up he gets the harness ready and calls Billy and he immediately comes and places his head in the collar. During the time that Mr. Lutz has had him he has never missed a meal from sickness or from being disabled. Above all he is trustworthy and honest and is a perfect pet with all those who congregate around the stable, knowing as well, as some of them often remark, just what they are saying about him as they do themselves. He is without doubt the oldest horse in this town, and, old as he is, there are but very few better ones in the town to day than Old Billy, and he has many friends as any person in Mahanoy City.
Mahanoy Tribune Newspaper.

Sunday, October 26, 2008

Faces From the Past

Working men

Over the years I have collected hundreds of photographs and CDV's of soldiers , civilians and workingmen. I just find the faces and look of theses people fascinating.. Here are a few photos from different era's most are from the coal region.

What A ball team the top photo,
and unloading coal from a railroad car.

Friday, October 17, 2008


An 1875 List of Union Officials Of The M&L.W.B.A In July 1875 Schuylkill County Area
It is interesting to note the names of the men in these different districts. As a historian I have always tried to disprove the theory that the Irish hated the Welsh, and the Welsh hated the Irish. As evidence you can see the different names of the officers both Irish and Welsh serving together in the same offices.



Did you know the first miners union was formed in Schuylkill County? the first miners union, actually possibly the first trade union in the United States was organized in 1849 at a colliery in St. Clair, Schuylkill County, by an Englishman named John Bates, and is known as Bates’ Union. It hardly got on its feet when it went on strike for more wages. But within three weeks the strikers returned to their working places, beaten, and the union died within a few months. Others said that Bates ran off with their dues and money paid in?
In 1868 the anthracite miners once again found strength and united. The Workmen’s Benevolent Association, got its start this year in St. Clair, which gave birth to the Bates Union. John Siney became a labor leader of national reputation was its organizer. The W.B.A. as the old miners referred to it, lived a brief seven years, and they were about the fattest the mine workers saw in the whole country.
The W.B.A. grew stronger and bolder each succeeding month as it reached out to all parts of the anthracite region, and John Siney and his apostles talked of spreading the gospel among the great mass of miners in the western Bituminous fields. Meanwhile, there came from the operators insistent demands for reductions in wages which the union was able to resist in most instances until 1975.
What had worked to the advantage of the W.B.A. up to 1875 was the difficulty of the operators to unite against them owing to fierce competition for markets. Most of the strikes until then had been sectional affairs; when the miners suffered losses in a striking area they drew courage from their fellow unionists in sections where peace existed.
Parenthetically, this period marks the rise of that double headed dragon kind of corporation which brought vast coal properties under the control of a handful of railroad companies. The most powerful of these corporations was the Philadelphia Reading Coal and Iron Company incorporated in 1872. Under the Presidency of Franklin B. Gowen, the greatest industrialist in he region. The “Company” exerted a dominant influence over the destinies of thousands of its workers while its power was felt all over the region.
In 1874 Gowen induced the operators to band together in to the Anthracite Board of trade, for the purpose of stabilizing the market, by controlling the production, and tonnage quotas. In December 1874 came the ultimation of the united operators….wages must come down! It was left to the operators; it ranged from 10 to 20 percent. The Showdown had come at last.
When it began the strike of 1875 forever known as “The Long Strike”, it was region wide. But soon the miners in the northern fields accepted a cut in wages and returned to work. Though disturbed over this defection, the strikers in the southern and middle coal fields carried on. Acute suffering was being felt by the miners and their families causing some of the weaker brethren to submit to “blacklegging”. As the weeks wore on, suffering became more sharp and at one time the leaders were willing to accept a reduction provided their Union the Miners and Laborers Benevolent Association would have a voice in the settlement. Though some independents were willing to agree to this, the great corporations, determined to crush the Union and ruin it. They refused to have anything to do with the union. The strike dragged itself out to the middle of June, when the men, their families starving, submitted. They returned to work humbled in pride, and broken hearted. Gone was the union, and lacking any protection they entered upon a condition of existence that was altogether tragic. The union went to its grave because the great operators abetted by a coal and iron police recently established, and by a resort to the blacklist, willed it so. So ended the M&L.B.A.

A Meeting was called to re-organize the union
Interesting bi-laws!


Poloticians will be poloticians no matter what era.

Thursday, October 16, 2008





Few people outside of those who work in and about the mines are aware of the workings of such industries and the manner in which the employees are rewarded after spending their whole life in the work.
Briefly, it follows; First, the boy of eight or ten years of age is sent to the breaker to pick the slate and other impurities from the coal which has been brought up from the mine. From there he is promoted and becomes a door boy, working in the mine.
As he grows older and stronger he is advanced to the position and given the pay of a Driver boy, the boy who takes care of the mules and works with them throughout the whole shift. He will groom, feed and drive the mules. Next job is the laborer. There he gains the experience which secures him a place as a miners helper, and he acquires skill and strength he become, when in the height of his manhood and vigor, a full fledged miner.
If he is fortunate enough to escape the falls of rock and coal he may retain this position as a miner for a number of years. But as age creeps on and he is attacked by some of the many diseases incident to working in the mines, he makes his way for those of the younger and more vigorous following him up the ladder whose summit he has reached.
He then starts the descent, going back to become a miner’s helper, then a mine laborer, now a gain a door boy, and when old and decrepit he finally returns to the breaker where he started as a child, earning the same wages he as he received by as a boy. So is the average miner’s life. He cannot reach places of eminence and wealth. Only one in five hundred can even be given place as foreman or superintendent, and these are positions which few miners care to hold.

Written to the Pottsville Journal, January 4, 1902.

Editors note:
And you know as hard a life as these men, our ancestors had, I never heard a word of complaint, only pride in what they did. We owe so much to the miners of the anthracite region for they supplied the power and heat for the USA. For well over a century. And I am proud to say my family worked the mines.

The Black Maria...Coal Region Ambulance




An aged and esteemed resident of Mahanoy Plane, follows closely in the wake of a member of the family that met a sad end.

Mrs. Mary Joyce, the widowed mother of James Joyce, the young man who was killed the day before Christmas by a heavy timber falling on him at the Draper Colliery, died at her home in Mahanoy Plane of illness super induced by the shock at the terrible news of her son’s tragic death.
Deceased was 59 years of age and was believed and esteemed by a wide circle of friends. She had been a resident of that place for many years. A family of six children, three sons and three daughters survive. They are almost distracted with grief over their bereavement, in which they have sympathy of everyone.
Her funeral occurred on Wednesday morning and was largely attended. A Requiem High Mass was celebrated in the Church of the Holy Rosary.

Pottsville Journal January 4, 1902

Tuesday, October 14, 2008


This is really cool!

Tag Photo to enlarge........


The largest blast that ever occurred in the anthracite region took place at the Cranberry Strippings, Hazelton Pa. Owned by the Lehigh, Coal & Navigation Co.

The operator was J. Robert Bazley.

133 six inch holes were drilled to an average depth of 76 feet.

84,000 lbs of Dynamite

16, 200 lbs of Blasting Powder

13,000 feet of Cordeau Fuse.

Unfortunately I don't know what the date is. If anybody knows please email me.

Monday, October 13, 2008

A Ghost Hanging around the Charles Baber Cemetery

Here is another Ghost story from the miners Journal in 1865. The cemetery is Charles Baber on Market St. Pottsville.
Pottsville Miners Journal
December 2, 1865

A Ghost

The upper section of Market St. has been somewhat excited lately, by the alleged appearance between the hours of 11 and 1 o’clock at night, of a white moving figure. Persons, who say they have seen it, assert most positively that it has followed them up the road which runs by the cemetery as far as the gate. To one who saw it in a hollow just west of the forks of the road, it bowed its head repeatedly with the stately dignity and solemnity of the shade of Hamlet’s father. Another attempt to grasp it, as it appeared at his side, and it disappeared. Pistol balls and stones it is said, have no effect on whatever upon it. Anxious to verify the fact of the existence of this perambulating, perturbed spirit, we visited the spot on Tuesday night at 12 o’clock. It might have been that the moon was shinning to brightly for the ghostly visitor, or that from skepticism we were deemed unworthy to hold communion with it, at any rate it did not walk that night. In the old coach shop on Market St., recently two workmen were employed with coal oil lamps. They. (the lamps) were full of oil and the wicks well primed. One of the workers was up the other down stairs. Suddenly without apparent cause, both lamps were extinguished precisely at the same moment. This we have from the lips of one of the workmen. As this is the same distance from the spot where the ghost is seen to walk, we can only attribute this mysterious cocushop business to the fact that there must be a nest of ghosts up Market Street. With interests, we await further developments in this grave matter.

Sunday, October 5, 2008


Schuylkill County's Last Duel?
Actually not this sofisticated

Pennsylvania’s last duel fought
Schuylkill County.

The last duel fought in the State of Pennsylvania was actually fought in Schuylkill County. Yep ! that’s the story, the last all out duel was fought or I should say shot out in an old fashioned running duel up in good old Mahanoy City on March 26, 1931.
Dueling had been forbidden in Pennsylvania since 1794, under penalty of fine and imprisonment, and loss of citizenship for seven years. An unconverted public sentiment, however, still approved of this long lost code of honor.
The story has it that on the evening of Thursday March 26, 1931 two Montenegrin mineworkers who immigrated to the region several years before and lived in an old shack, fought a duel for personal honor. Both men were hired by a rock contractor to work with the driving of gangways in the local mines.
Savo Raicevich, 42 and Risto Evo Brankovich, 48 were the duelists. The so called duel was arraigned according to the customs of their native Montenegrin hill people.
Both of the men had been born and raised together ion the same village in Montenegro, according to the story Raicevich, had returned to his native country to visit his family, and on the return made some nasty remarks defaming the virtue and character of the wife of Brankovich , who still lived in Montenegro.
Both men resided in an old shack erected by their contractor on the south side of the Mahanoy City Delano highway, below the old Primrose Colliery office on the hill which rose directly behind the cabin. The duel or shootout took place on the North Eight St, dumping grounds. The duel consisted of revolvers, while the men ran and hid behind the rocks and debris of the dumping area. In the course of this so called (duel) …..Gun Fight? they fired more than thirty shots at each other.
Both men were wounded, Raicevich’s injuries proving fatal. He died a few hours after the (Duel-Gunfight) at the Locust Mountain Hospital.
Brankovich was brought to trial on June 19, 1931, and two days later the jury returned a verdict of “Not Guilty)! On June 23, he was taken before Judge Richard Koch who fixed bail at $3,000 with the charges of “Dueling”. While sitting in jail and very depressed over his actions of killing his friend and countryman , Brankovich attempted to take his own life. He failed, but two years later following an attack of appendicitis he died.

A little side bar to this story: Me and my butty and fellow actor Tommy Symons were asked to re enact this historical program for the Mahanoy City Historical Society during their Halloween programs a couple of years ago. We had so much fun doing this program. We actually used a few of my old pistols loaded with black powder. I think we actually scared a few people when the flames and roar of the guns went off.. but it was fun.

Monday, September 22, 2008


The Explosion

This is the story of Schuylkill County’s worst mining accident up to 1892. It is testimony to the grave danger that our miners faced on a daily basis when working in the mines. This accident happened on July 23, 1892.





Men to the number of fifteen perished on Saturday by reason of an explosion of gas in the York farm colliery, on the western outskirts of Pottsville. Nine of the men were killed outright. Seven were taken out of the mine alive, but horribly mutilated and burned, and six of them died before Sunday morning. The seventh man still lives, but there is little hope for recovery. His name is George Stock. He is 24 years old and married, but three weeks ago. His home is in Yorkville.

William Jones, 17 years, door boy, son of Richard Jones Minersville.

William Weyman 31 years, married wife and three small children. His home was at Minersville. He was the son of George Weyman of Sheafer’s Hill. The dead man at one time resided at Girardville.

Thomas Jones, 35 years, married, wife and four children. Lived on New Castle Street Minersville, and up to within about two years ago resided at Mt. Carmel.

Harry Madara, 31 years, lived at Mt. Hope, and leaves a wife and five children. His agony ended at 8 o’clock Saturday night.

The disaster is the most appalling that has ever occurred in the Schuylkill region. The cause is surrounded by mystery and the only chance of clearing it up lies in the recovery of George Stock. He is the only surviving man who worked in the section of the mine where the explosion occurred and his condition is too critical to allow any investigation at present.
William Leckie, the inside foreman of the mine say that all the men on the first level of the colliery, where the explosion occurred used locked safety lamps. The men in the second lift used the same kind of lamps. A boy was kept on guard in tunnel No. 1 to prevent any one entering with a naked lamp. With all these precautions Mr. Leckie cannot understand how the explosion occurred, unless a safety amp was dropped and the gauze was so injured it allowed the flame to come in contact with the gas and ignited it.
The explosion took place on the first level, a depth of 1,025 feet down the slope. The vein on the lift are cut by a tunnel running north and south and fifteen hundred feet from the opening of the tunnel, southwardly, is the Salem vein, in which the victims worked. Fourteen men working for contractor Joseph Dolan in the face of the tunnel, 1,500 feet south of the death scene narrowly escaped the fate of the unfortunates. Some of them were knocked off their feet by the shock of the explosion, but none were injured. In making a dash to escape the deadly after damp they had a thrilling experience. They were led by Foreman George Tierney. They made a dash for the slope. As they approached the scene of the disaster they met a barrier. The mine had been closed by the explosion. The men were already suffering from foul air on account of the compressed air connections being broken. The men were apparently cut off by the gangway of the Salem vein coming in. The timbers had been blown out and the top coal had fallen. After a scramble over the heap of debris a hole large enough to admit passage of a man’s body was found at the top of the fall. This means of egress saved them. After reaching the surface the men vomited for some time. Some of them were in critical condition for several hours.
Most of the bodies recovered were literally roasted and were unrecognizable. One body was headless and the entrails of young Jones were missing. Kries’s body was bootless and nearly all the men were naked. Those who were carried out of the mine alive suffered terrible agony.
The body of the fire boss, John Harrlson, was found at 8’coclok on Sunday evening. It was under tons of debris and was a shapeless mass. It was the eight body recovered. Up to the late hour last night Honickers body had been recovered.
Honicker and Thomas Llewellyn worked breast No.1 in the Salem vein, on the second level. The breast is immediately below the place were the other men lost their lives and it is believed that the gas was ignited in No.1. Honicker and Llewellyn fired a blast in the face of their breast at 9:25 a.m. A heavy out burst of gas followed the firing of the shot. Llewellyn at once left the breast to inform fire Boss John Gibbons, just as the latter found Gibbons, which was about five minutes after the shot was fired, the explosion took place.
The explosion was as destructive in the second level as it was in the first. The pillars were started in the second level and the breast were filled. Sunday miners reached the heading into which Honicker went when Llewellyn left him, but he could not be found. He is supposed to be buried under the coal.
Two of the victims, the Allotts, father and son, were the sole support of the mother and eight children. They moved from Mahanoy City to Pottsville three weeks ago. The family suffered from the flood at the former place and is in needy circumstances.
The funeral of two of the victims Curran and Lauders, took place today, the remained were interred in No. 2 and No. 3 cemeteries, Pottsville.
Miners have always regarded York Farm colliery as a “fiery hole”. The explosions have been numerous. On August 8, 1891, fifteen men were burned there, but only one died. A miner named Harry Parry, of Minersville, was fatally burned there a few weeks ago.

Removing the Bodies At York Farm

This part is taken from my book “Death In the Mines”, History Press.

Explosion at York Farm
Pottsville, Schuylkill County
July 23, 1890.

Situated on the borough line of Pottsville is the York Farm colliery. This colliery has been in operation on and off since the 1850’s. In 1887 the land was purchased by the Lehigh Valley Coal Company and a new breaker and operations were started. The old slope was reopened after being idle for over thirty years. The water was pumped out and the slope was sunk another three hundred feet, with gangways driven north and south along the Salem Vein.
On July 23rd only two breasts were being worked on this level. The ventilation was good in this section. As a matter of fact the miners complained about the large fast, volume of air that circulated in the section. It was so strong it caused the coal dust to be blown in the eyes of the miners. The air was circulated by two large fans 21 feet in diameter. Although it was well known that in this mine large volumes of gas were suddenly discharged from the vein of coal. Even the large volume of air circulating could not prevent a highly explosive atmosphere. On this day two miners, William Lewellyn and Chris Honicker, were working in the number one breast. Both miners were experienced in working in gaseous mines. They were equipped with locked safety lamps and used only dynamite and electric batteries to fire their shots. They both knew if an outburst of gas occurred, they were to sound an alarm and notify the nearest inside foreman.
The explosion was one of the strongest ever witnessed in an anthracite mine. Samuel Gay, the eight district mine inspector’s report would show carelessness on the part of the miners involved. Following are exerts from his report of the accident.
A short time before the explosion, Lewellyn and Honicker had fired a shot, and immediately after Lewellyn discovered a large volume of gas was being given off, charging the return current to an explosive point. He told Honicker that such was the case, telling him to stay in the intake heading, whilst he would go an notify some of the officials. In a few minutes Lewellyn found a fire boss who had charge of that section of the mine, and they at once began to retrace their steps back to Lewellyn’s working place, but just as they started back, an explosion occurred with such fearful results as I hope I shall never witness again, or have occasion to make record of. As a natural result, batteries, timbers and brattices were blown out, and ventilation cut off, and the workings in the Salem vein were filled with explosive gas. However, ventilation was soon reestablished, and every effort made to rescue the bodies by the willing hands of the brave hearted men of the colliery. A number of workmen from some of the neighboring mines displayed energy, skill and courage in their efforts to recover the bodies of the entombed men, and are worthy of the name of heroes. The bosses, and a number of workmen from Beechwood colliery deserve special mention, because they were under no obligation in any way to render any assistance, but willingly came and offered their services, without any expectation of being remunerated for their labor or the risk to their lives.
After recovering the bodies, we directed our attention to the question which would naturally be asked; How and where did the explosion take place? In our examination of the airway, and at a point about forty feet below the second lift gangway, three men were engaged in timbering and enlarging the main airway or return. Our first objective was to examiner the part of the opening where the men were timbering. Here we found timbers blown in opposite directions; those towards the first lift having been blown up the pitch, and those below, down the pitch.
By following through all the part of the mine affected by the explosion it was found that the same state of affairs existed. That part of the workings in the second lift or bottom lift were George Stock was found, received the force of the explosion on the north side, crushing the north side of a car and toppling it over toward the south side on top of Stock. In fact, everything indicated that the explosion originated at the point in the airway where the three men were working.
There is no question in my mind whatever as to the point where the gas was ignited. The manner in which it was fired will never be known with any degree of certainty. The men who were working the airway were not there when the explosion occurred, but were found about eighty feet out from the mouth of an air hole on the main gangway. It was my opinion at the time, and I am still convinced that the three men either had detected the air current charged with gas, or Elise they had been notified by John Harrison the fire boss. However, it was quite evident that in the excitement one of the unfortunates ran away and left his safety lamp behind, and we are of the opinion that the fire boss, on learning of the fact, was on his way to make an effort to recover the lamp, and just as he got to the mouth of the air hole, the explosion occurred, killing him. The safety lamps were found alongside of the victims, excepting the one that belonged to Wheyman, one of the men who was employed in the airway. Part of this lamp was afterwards found in the airway, when the debris was being cleaned up.
Mr. Gay determined that the fifteen men killed in this accident could have been saved if the men had followed the instructions, that required them to throw open the battery doors between the intake and the return airways. It was more than probable that the volume of fresh air would have been largely increased, while the volume of gas that was swept along by the air current would have been materially diminished.



02/19/1847 Spencer Pottsville PA 7 Coal Explosion
01/15/1870 Potts Locustdale PA 5 Coal Explosion
08/10/1870 Heins & Glassmire Middleport PA 9 Coal Cage fall (shaft)
08/29/1870 Preston No. 3 Girardville PA 7 Coal Cage fall (shaft
10/02/1871 Otto Red Ash Branch Dale PA 5 Coal Explosion
05/09/1877 Wadesville Wadesville PA 7 Coal Explosion
05/06/1879 Audenried Audenried PA 6 Coal Explosion
11/02/1879 Mill Creek Mill Creek PA 5 Coal Explosion
05/24/1882 Kohinoor Shenandoah PA 5 Coal Explosion
04/06/1885 Cuyler Raven Run PA 10 Coal Roof fall
04/27/1887 Tunnel Ashland PA 5 Coal Suffocated by gas
10/01/1887 Bast Ashland PA 5 Coal Suffocated by gas
05/09/1889 Kaska William Middleport PA 10 Coal Mine car fell on men in cage
04/20/1892 Lytle Minersville PA 10 Coal Inrush of water
07/23/1892 York Farm Pottsville PA 15 Coal Explosion
02/18/1895 West Bear Ridge Mahoney Plane PA 5 Coal Explosion
01/13/1897 Wadesville Wadesville PA 5 Coal Crosshed fell/shaft
05/26/1898 Kaska Williams Middleport PA 6 Coal Inrush of water
11/09/1900 Buck Mountain Mahanoy City PA 7 Coal Explosion
05/05/1904 Locust Gap Locust Gap PA 5 Coal Fire
02/18/1905 Lytle Minerville PA 5 Coal Haulage
07/15/1908 Williamstown Williamstown PA 6 Coal Explosion
08/02/1913 East Brookside Tower City PA 20 Coal Explosion
05/06/1926 Randolph Colliery Port Carbon PA 5 Coal Explosion
01/21/1935 Gilberton Gilberton PA 13 Coal Explosion
04/27/1938 No. 1 Slope Pottsville PA 8 Coal Explosion
09/24/1943 Primrose Colliery Minersville PA 14 Coal Explosion
03/01/1977 Porter Tunnel Tower City PA 9 Coal Inundation

Sunday, September 21, 2008

Stage Coaches in the Coal Region 1839

Stage Coach on the Route.

In this blog I want to take a look at the stage coach lines that ran through out the coal region back in 1839-1845 time period. It is hard to find out what type of stage coaches were used on these lines. Pictures or drawings of the coaches on the ads seemed to fit the Concord style of coach. The heavy Concord Stagecoach was first manufactured in Concord, NH, by the Abbot Downing Co. in 1827. The key to the Concord's success was its 'thorough braces' or multiple leather straps, on which the body of the coach rocked.

There was s a certain romantic feature to riding on the old stages, the outside of the coach was usually painted on bright colors, while the inside was very plush with soft material for the passengers comfort. There were usually three seats, heavily cushioned and three people could ride on each seat. There was also another seat beside the driver, which was a favorite of passengers in good weather. Also if management allowed it in nice weather passengers could ride on the top. The capacity of the stage was usually 6 to nine people but sometimes there were as many as fifteen riding in and on the stage. There were no springs on these coaches, the suspension method was by heavy leather straps called through braces which were spread between the front and rear axels. This gave the coach a gentile swing back and forth for the passengers comfort.

The horses were specially picked for the job, they were mostly North Star, Windflower or Hickory breed. Breed s which are now basically extinct but were popular back then. The were picked for their beauty and speed, actually the stage made about 10 mph on the road.

While driving along the route the horses were exchanged at different stops, so that they had fresh and steady horses for the run. The drivers carried long whips which they could use on the horses to keep the speed up or get their attention. The drivers never attended their teams, but he certainly made sure they were well taken care off. The average pay for a stage driver was about 13 to 15 dollars a month depending upon the line. The driver had a language and mannerisms peculiar to them. He was given great considerations along the route. Women looked up to him as a man of great trust and dependence.

Most of the stages were pulled by four horses. There were no hand or foot brakes on these coaches. Their purpose was served by a skid, or drag shoe, which was put under the near hind wheel going downhill.
They say that the stage coach schedules were excellent , but the Mail coaches were magnificent, they actually set clocks by the schedule of the mail coach.




MARCH 30, 1839

So the headline reads in the Pottsville Democrat.
On Monday next the undersigned will commence running a daily line of stages between Pottsville and Reading to connect with the rail road to Philadelphia, and the lines of Stages running from Reading to Harrisburg, Lancaster, Easton &c.
This line will leave Pottsville every morning at 7 o’clock and arrive at reading in time to dine at Herr’s Hotel, and take the cars for Philadelphia. Returning it will leave the White Swan in Philadelphia at 5 o’clock A.M. and after the arrival of the cars leave Herr’s Hotel at Reading..dine at Walkers Hotel Port Clinton, and arrive in Pottsville at an early hour in the afternoon.
Weaver and Son’s line will be more speedy and run at lower rates than any other line on the route. Not excepting Ben Pott’s Anti-bet paying Line, which is got up n the money which he refuses to paying to the winners who bet with him on the result of the last election.
The teams are fast and well trained, the coaches commodious and well trimmed for the comfort of the passengers, none but sober and attentive drivers are employed and with many years experience as stage proprietors, we will defy competition in rendering satisfaction to passengers by a safe, speedy, and cheap conveyance, and without danger of being suffocated with the dust raised by an opposition stage.


Offer greater inducements than any other line, as is the only line by which passengers can secure seats through from Philadelphia to Northumberland, Danville and Catawissa.


From Pottsville to Northumberland and Milton, levees Pottsville every morning at 4 o’clock and at Milton the same evening, connecting with the Williamsport Stages at the latter place. Returning leaves Milton every morning at 5 o’clock and Northumberland at 9 o’clock, and arrives at Pottsville the same evening.
The Danville and Muncy Line leaves Pottsville every Monday, Wednesday and Friday morning at 4 o’clock and returns to Pottsville on Tuesday, Thursday, and Saturday.
All Baggage at the risk of the passenger..
John Weaver and Joseph H. Weaver.

Also in the newspaper was an article for the:



Run this line on their own hook, and must run the contract out should all the other lines go to smash. The line leaves the White Swan Hotel Philadelphia at 5 o’clock A.M. and the exchange Hotel and Pennsylvania Hall, Pottsville at 6 o’clock A.M. daily without having connection with any other line.

One way passenger will be carried at the following reduced rates of fares…..

From Orwigsburg to Reading……..$1.25
From Port Clinton to Reading……..$1.00
From Hamburg to Reading……….. $ .75

Passengers will be taken to and from any stopping places and every attenti0n paid to afford a cheap and easy conveyance to travelers, and WITHOUT RACING.

April 13, 1839

Jacob Peters
|Felix Beisel


May 4, 1839

On Thursday last one of Pott, Schoener & Co. stages was capsized near Hamburg, and the passengers more or less injured. No blame can be attached to the driver; but the proprietors, whoever they may be should be indicted for thus knowingly endangering the lives of passengers. We say knowingly, for the accident was occasioned by a wheel running off……the same wheel which ran off several times last week; and which the owners know must happen frequently, if they continue using cast iron burrs. The community ought to be thankful that there are proprietors of stages on the same route who understand their business, who guarantee a safe conveyance to passengers.

Monday, September 15, 2008

Mules Drivers And Spraggers

In the Spirit of his gggrandfather George "Gigi" Richards My Grandson Nathaniel Dixon portraying a Driver Boy in the Pioneer Tunnel, Ashland Pa.
Tag on any photo to enlarge...........

In preparing this work on the mine mule, I came across a very wonderful book written in 1904 entitled Colliery Jim, written by Nora Finch. In dedication, I would like to use what Ms. Finch wrote in her preface as I feel it states the way I have always felt about this wonderful animal.
Quote Ms. Finch, “I wish to state that the principal motive which led to its production was a sincere sympathy for that most abused and downtrodden of all animals, the mine mule. While man furnishes the brainpower, which directs the workings of the great coal industry, the mule constitutes its bone and sinew. Without this patient, homely drudge the coal industry could hardly be carried on; yet few persons realize his worth or take into account his sufferings.”
To all those men and boys who spent their life working underground. I dedicate this book.

Mules, Drivers, and Spraggers
An Anthracite Coal Region Legend
By, J. Stuart Richards

My sweetheart’s the mule in the mines
I drive her without reins or lines
On the bumper I sit, where I chew and I spit
All over my sweetheart’s behind.

The sweetheart of the mines was well remembered in both song and verse. The famous ballad shown above was sung by many a mule driver in the mines, while he led his mule along the dark gangways. Mule drivers were known to sing throughout their shifts. Another lively little poem about the mules and boys was written early on.
If the mules were in a patient mood,
And meekly jogged along,
The boys enlivened every hour
With merry jests and song.

For well over a century, these wonderful animals lived, worked, and died inside and outside of the anthracite and bituminous coal fields. The mule was an intricate part of the process of mining coal during the 19th and early 20th centuries. The miners depended upon them for hauling away the coal that they mined, the transporting of timbers, and especially for their uncanny method of staying alive deep underground. Some mules knew the inside of the mine better than most of the miners or drivers. Many a story relates how mules lead trapped miners to safety during an emergency. In the 1940’s, a miner by the name of Vince Gately from Port Carbon, worked in a mine along with his brother and another miner named Hank Holley. Their method of haulage was with a mule named Charlie.
‘We paid $125.00 for Charlie; he was dark brown and black. He was very high strung, for whoever had him before us didn’t treat him right. He didn’t like my brother to much, for he would always put a squeeze on him every chance he got. I always treated him pretty good, would give him carrots, and talked to him nicely and he would always walk back to the stable for me. I always took care on putting on his harness and traces. I would adjust them so he was comfortable. My brother and Holly would throw gravel at him. You see, you get more with kindness than slurs.
“One day we were in the mine and I found an old heading and I went to explore it. I used a rod to push through the wall and made a hole big enough to put my head in and when I shined my light in there all I saw was water. It looked like a lake in there. Well we were working near the heading one day. This was after a couple of days of heavy rain when Charlie, who was standing near and chained down, started acting like he was getting shocked. He looked like he was doing a dance. He kept looking at me and shaking his head up and down. Now when a mule starts acting funny you take heed. I unhooked him and he galloped out of the mine. He knew some thing was wrong. He didn’t only run out but went to the high ground above the stable. When all of a sudden, the wall in the old heading broke loose and the lake of water came rushing at us. We just barely got out, but thanks to Charlie, we did. We had him for 3 years and sold him to a miner in Branchdale. He was a good mule.”

First, just what is a mule? The breeding of horses and wild asses have been carried on for centuries for the purpose of producing a good, reliable working animal. The mule developed as a hybrid cross between an ungelded male ass called a Jack and a mare horse. The mule dates back a thousand years to the Middle East.
A mule’s physical characteristics are large ears, a very heavy muscular neck and large head. They are one of the most sure footed animals known. They are relatively disease resistant, tolerant of heat, live quite long, and have great endurance. Their use in the mines has proven very satisfactory. They are very quick in their movements, they adapt well to stress, especially in the mines. In comparing them to a horse, they have better eyesight, carry their heads lower to avoid obstacles better, and move with steadiness. They rarely become ill or suffer wounds, and can withstand extremes of temperature living on meager rations. Their stamina is excellent.
Mules are known to have a reputation of being bad tempered and stubborn, but this characteristic is just related to the mule’s knack for self-preservation. Mules are also very sensitive and many times untrusting of humans. Until they learned to trust the miners and drivers, they would take a defensive action of a good swift kick. They can kick fast and accurately. And, if a mule misses with the kick, it is because he intended to.
In the Mine Haulage Systems Manual written in 1927, one section describes what one should look for in a mule when the agent is purchasing the animal. Heavy mules are preferable but they should not be thick about the hocks, but should have good feet. If the coal beds are thin, the mule should be purchased to work the haulegways. The animals should be young, that way they are more easily broken into mine work. The ideal age is less than four years old. Some mules are better adapted to mine work than others. In fact, some are so nervous or stupid that they are useless. The training of the mules should be the responsibility of the stable boss or one thoroughly accustomed to handling mules.
The average mule weighed around 900 pounds and was capable of exerting six times that weight at about 2.5 miles per hour or 220 feet per minute on a level track. The following example shows how strong a mule is. A coal car weighed about 2,000 pounds empty and loaded with 4,000 pounds of coal and rock required the animal to exert over 1,200 pounds of energy just to start it moving. This number would change depending upon the age of the track, the angle, and other factors.
The most common disease of the mule was an aliment called Lampers and Scratches. If not taken care of, it could cause lameness, although, with the mule’s tendency for being very tough and durable, it was mostly just an annoyance. The major problem associated with mine mules was from the carelessness of the drivers not checking the harness, collar, hames, and traces for proper fit and chaffing. The most dangerous thing the mules had to contend with was the same as anybody who made their living working deep in the bowels of the earth, that of gas explosions, falling roofs of slate and rock, and coal falls. This great animal shared all the same dangers as the miners and drivers. There is no listing of how many mules died in the mines, but the ratio would certainly be on the high side for the number of years that they worked the mines. Following is a good example of the dangers the mine mule was subject to and how tough and durable they were.

The Mule
Men generally fail in their estimate of the enduring characteristics of the mule. We have heard a mule can kick, and that the mysterious law of gravitation has been outrageously violated when the mule has exercised in this particular. Some say the mule can reason and that its logic is remarkably penetrating; whether the animal is all as represented, we cannot with any degree of positiveness, state. However, we have always been inclined to the belief that the mule is very philosophical in its ways. Conceding it being possessed, intuitively or by acquirement, of these worthy qualities, a late incident justifies us in adding to the role of the mules virtues; that of wonderful physical endurance. At a certain colliery the other day, a mule employed in drawing cars to and from a counter chute on the surface, through some mysterious manner entangled its foot in the track and unwillingly precipitated itself hind-foremost down the deep, dark chasm. It would unbecome us to estimate the number of revolutions made before its dark destination was reached-we allow the mule to tell its own story. Much anxiety was experienced for the mule by his astonished driver who saw him disappear from view. With a woebegone countenance expressive of a deep care and concern the agitated driver speedily made his way to the dark abyss prepared to shed a kindly tear over the remains of the late departed, when to his surprise the mule in question was found possessed of all the live qualities so characteristic of his specie. On being led to the stable, he relived himself of the dust and dirt acquired in his two-hundred eighty feet descent by a natural mule shake, par-took of a hearty meal, reposed in undisturbed slumbers throughout the night and in the morning awoke as hale and hearty as if he had been romping over a green field with his muleine relatives. This incident deserves to be added to the long catalogue of events illustrating the progress of science. Investigation has proved that the interior of the chute has in no way been damaged. We cannot explain the mystery, except that irresistible forces met the irresistible substance and the result was as stated. It is presumed that the colliery will continue its mining operations despite its possession of this remarkable scientific factor.
The mine mule had many interesting, inherent characteristics. Some would lie down and not get up no matter how much coaxing was done. Others would stop dead at quitting time and would not move no matter how hard they were pulled, pushed and coaxed. They seemed to know how many cars they normally hauled, and adding any more to the trip would cause them to stand fast and not move an inch. A good example is Vince Gately’s mule Charlie. Charlie could pull up to three cars on the little pitch but he only wanted to pull two. Charlie could feel the jerks in the number of cars. He would pull and if he felt more than two jerks, he would sit down on the track and not move. So I would place a stone under the first car and then let them drift back, and he wouldn’t feel the jerk. Then he would pull the three cars out.
An interesting story of the strange behavior of a mule was given to me by my father in regards to my grandfather, George Richards, known to his friends as “Gigi’. He was a driver, miner, and barn boss in his 40 years in the mines. While working as barn boss at Indian Head Colliery, he had a mule by the name of Duke. Duke was an inside mule who spent the majority of his time underground. At one point, Duke got injured and was brought to the surface to recuperate. Gigi treated him with kindness and a good relationship developed between them. Duke would follow my grandfather all over stable. Gigi would share his lunch with him and groom him. But, Duke had one of those strange mule characteristics that stumped Gigi. When he was brought to the surface, he would not drink any water. At first Gigi, was not concerned, for, like a horse, a mule will only drink when it wants to. But after a while my grandfather became concerned. He would get him fresh buckets of water, but Duke would just turn his head and walk away. One day, Gigi went back into the mine and down to the inside barn and brought up a bucket of water. At that, Duke ran over, dipped his head into the bucket, and drank it empty. The only thing my grandfather could think of was he wanted water that smelled like sulfur. Gigi was kind to his mules and always related the fact that he never hit them with hand or whip. He always cracked the whip over their heads. He could always tell a mule that was hit by the drivers by rubbing his hands over their backs and finding the tender spots and rubbing them with ligament. He would always approach his mules from the front and pet and rub their heads and talk nicely to them. His favorite method involved giving them some sugar or tobacco. His favorite mule was a small mule called “Little Joe.“ He was a dark bay color and stood no taller than himself. Little Joe worked in the Evert Tunnel on Red Mountain in 1933. Vince Gately also shared that mules very rarely had worms, most likely because of them drinking water tainted with sulfur inside the mines.

Another great mule story was written in the Pottsville Republican, March 8, 1915. This is a story of a stubborn mule. He escaped from the Bell Colliery stables, was known as a veteran of the mines, and was now on the surface because of an injury to three of its legs.

A Stubborn Mule Fought Fireman
When the 7107 Reading Railway train, bound for Tamaqua from Pottsville Monday morning, was commencing to ascend Tuscarora hill, shortly after 8 o’clock, the engineman, Geo. Paul was astounded to see a large black mule coming down the track between the rails and apparently determined to dispute the right away. Whistling “Down Brakes.“ Paul sent ahead fireman Jim Riegel with instructions to drive away the belligerent mule, and Jim, armed with the wire, bread and steak toaster, approached the mule which at once turned tail. Every time Jim hit it on the rump, he let fly with a viscous kick using its one good leg, and hee-hawed loudly. Engineman Paul followed with the passenger train, slowly of course, until Jim’s toaster broke, and then he went to the tender and getting a scoop shovel returned to the combat. In the mean time, Conductor Jim Gately and a number of passengers joined the attacking column. The mule now turned around head toward the locomotive and refused to budge an inch. Finally, executing two flank movements, the mule was made to turn tail toward the locy and then, engineer Paul put on the steam while Riegel belabored the mule with the shovel, and at the psychological moment the conductor signaled Paul and the port side front bumper struck the mule on the starboard hind quarter and the stubborn animal was tumbled into the snow “Hee-hawing” loudly at the mean trick played on it.

In this story, a mule’s stubbornness caused its death. Shamokin Times, May 14, 1880.

The other day, a mule started to walk up the slope of the Pennsylvania Colliery and about the same time a wagon started down the slope. The mule and wagon met and both were stubborn and refused to turn to the right as the law is supposed to direct, something had to happen. The wagon was the victor in the collision and the mule was reasonably dead in about four quick seconds.

The mule was also known for its mysteriously strange memory and would remember the driver or miner who mistreated them. They could become extremely agitated quickly and strike out with their front legs or turn around and give you “Both Barrels,” as it was known. Many drivers and miners were injured severely or killed by the kick of an angry mule, and many a mule suffered pain and injury from angry drivers and miners. It was a real love hate relationship within the colliery sometimes. In mine inspectors reports there are hundreds of examples of injuries received by miners and drivers while working with the mules. An interesting article was reported in the Mahanoy City newspaper on March
4, 1890.
Killed by a Mule

Fred Kershner, aged 19 years, employed as a driver at Elmwood colliery, was fatally kicked by a vicious mule while at work Saturday morning. Before the Coroner’s inquest last evening, Joseph Copley, a l7year-old boy who was the only witness of the accident, stated that Kershner was going toward the bottom with a trip of loaded cars. He was standing on the front of the trip when his hind mule, a vicious and ungovernable animal, began to kick. He heard Kershner cry “ Whoa” or “Ob,” he could not clearly distinguish which, and then saw him fall off the trip into the ditch aside the road. The witness was frightened and ran to the bottom of the slope to summon help. Evan Reese who was one of the men who ran to the assistance of the injured driver, testified that when he arrived at the spot, Kershner was found lying in the ditch with his head covered with blood, and his body convulsively twitching in agony of pain. He was picked up and carried out to the bottom, dying on the way up the slope. There could be no doubt that the mule kicked him, as he could not have been squeezed between the car and the timber at this point, as some had supposed. The kick was received in the face making a frightful wound. The deceased was a son of Mrs. Elizabeth Kershner, residing on West Centre Street.

The miners always stated that the company favored the mule over the miner, which was true because the mule was company property just like all the drills, picks and cars. Any known damage to company property by an employee demanded immediate dismissal and the possibility of being black balled throughout the coal region. A good example of this type of incident occurred on June 13, 1891, at the Brookside Colliery, in the Pottsville district. John Maguire, a Philadelphia and Reading company superintendent, was called out to investigate a mule that was cut by an axe. The following is taken from Maguire’s notes.
June 13, Brookside, saw bosses and John Monahan and told me that Owen Langton had cut a mule with an axe and by reports that driver says he did it purposely. Told bosses to suspend him.
June 19, Brookside saw John McKurk driver of the mule that Owen Langton cut with the axe, he says Langton was standing on a scaffold and was knocked down when he hit the mule with his axe, and said it was not accidentally as Langton claims. Also saw a laborer who was working with Langton and he says he must tell the truth, that Langton hit the mule purposely. It is evident that Owen Langton lost his job at the Brookside Colliery, as damaging company property was an offense.’

Mules were kept either in underground stables or above ground stables. They were well taken care of for the time period in which they were used. They were well feed and watered daily. They had veterinary services and their aliments were treated with great care. The average daily feed for a mule weighing 1000 pounds is 12 pounds of grain and 15 pounds of hay. Hay is digested in the intestines and grain in the stomach, so it was important for the drivers to water them first then give them hay and grain. It was important for mules to have as much water as possible through out the workday. The one requirement for the drivers was that the mule should have plenty of water in the morning.
In the stables, the drivers were responsible for properly harnessing the mules. They paid particular care to the shoeing and mule’s legs were washed down when in the stable. According to the Mine Haulage Systems Manual, stables on the surface should be well ventilated and drained. Underground stables were some elaborate places. Some were cut right out of the rock with individual stalls for each mule. In the Pottsville Journal, October 11, 1911, an article was written that described a new method of keeping the mules in good health.

Mine Mules Bathe
Have Tubs of Their Own and Shower Too.
Concrete bathtubs are the latest addition to the mule stables of the Philadelphia and Reading Coal and Iron Co. and according to Chief Veterinarian Newhard, who originated them, they help to keep the work animals in good health and spirits. These concrete basins are set into the stable yard to a depth of four feet and filled with water, which is heated in winter by a jet of steam. The dimensions of 6 feet by 27½ feet are ample for the mules to enjoy a good dip, while corrugations on the bottom of the tank keep them from slipping. The inclines at both ends are likewise ribbed for the safety of the animals. A six-foot shower is suspended over the center of the tank and all the coal dirt and dust is quickly removed.

In 1894, Stephen Crane, the famous author, wrote an article for McClures Magazine entitled “In the Depths of a Coal Mine.’ In one part, he describes the underground stables of a mine.

“Over in a wide and lightless room we found the mule stables. There we discovered a number of these animals standing with an air of calmness and self-possession that was somehow amazing to find in a mine. A little dark urchin came and belabored his mule “China” until he stood broadside to us that we might admire his innumerable fine qualities. The stable was like a dungeon. The mules were arranged in solemn rows. They turned their heads toward our lamps. The glare made their eyes shine wondrously like lenses. They resembled enormous rats. About the room stood bales of hay, and straw the commonplace air worn by the long-eared slaves made it all infinitely usual. One had to wait to see the tragedy of it. It was not until we had grown familiar with the life and the traditions of the mines that we were capable of understanding the story told by these beasts standing, in calm array with spread legs.”

At some of the collieries, the underground working mules were taken in and out every day. Other collieries kept mules underground for very long periods of time. Some mules lived years underground before they were brought to the surface. Many stories relate how the mule, after being brought to the surface, would run, snort, and kick the air madly with the happiness of its new found freedom, and upon being made to go back into the mine would not move, or become very mean. Stephen Crane continues his story of the mine mule and his life.
It is common affair for mules to be imprisoned for years in the limitless night of the mines. Our acquaintance, “China,” had been four years buried. Upon the surface, there had been the march of the seasons the white splendor of the snows had changed again and again to the glories of green springs. F our times had the earth been ablaze with the decorations of brilliant autumns. But, “China” and his friends had remained in these
dungeons from which daylight, if one could get a view up a shaft, would appear in a tiny circle, a silver star aglow in a sable sky. Usually, when brought to the surface, the mules tremble at earth radiant in sunshine. Later they go almost mad with fantastic joy. The frill splendor of the heavens, the grass, the trees, the breezes, breaks upon them suddenly. They caper and career with extravagant mulish glee. A miner told me of a mule that had spent some delirious months upon the surface after years of labor in the mines. Finally, the time came when he was to be taken back, but the memory of a black existence was upon him. He knew that gaping mouth that threatened to swallow him. No cudgeling could induce him the men held conventions and discussed plans to budge that mule. The celebrated quality of obstinacy in him won him liberty to gambol clumsily on the surface.”

Mules were used inside and outside of the colliery. The typical method utilized underground started when the mule was brought in either by way of a caged car, which was lowered down the shaft, or slope or they were walked in by the driver boys. Inside the mine, the mules hauled loaded or unloaded cars from the working faces and breasts by way of the gangways. There were areas called mule ways where the mules were taken off the gangway and distributed to other gangways or headings. Some miners had many working faces and required numerous cars. One driver and mule was assigned to a number of miners. When the car was loaded, it was taken up to a parting or siding in a given amount of time. The cars were held there until a trip was made up to go to the surface. The most common trip consisted of 10 or 12 cars using three mules and three drivers, with the mules hooked in tandem.
One of the most interesting jobs the mule had was that reserved for a special mule, one with a little bit more intelligence than the norm. This mule was called the “Breechin’ Mule.’ It was this mule’s job to work at the base of the shaft where the cage was located. As a trip of cars was being readied for the lift to the surface the bottom man would take each car and one by one take a hook on one side of the spreader chain attach it to the Breechin’ Mule. The mule would pull forward, at the right time, with quick legwork step out of the way, and allow the loaded car to move forward into the cage. Once in the cage the door would shut and the cage rise to the surface. It was said when the mule did the maneuver, it looked like he was dancing.
The normal speed of the mule hauling a loaded car is about 2.5 M.P.H. depending mostly on the pitch or grade of the haulway. Drivers were taught never to work the mules at a fast pace. The animals would tire and in the long run it would just exhaust the animals. When they were used too hard, they became winded, so the advantage of using them to gain more movement of cars and coal was lost. If the mule was tired, the chance existed he could stumble or lag behind and on a down pitch, the car could easily run into the mule and injure him. Care was needed when using the mule on a descending grade. Anything above a 3% grade was not supposed to be used in fear of hurting the animal. Cars were supposed to run down the grade without the use of the mule.
The mule’s effectiveness came from the fact that an average four-mule string could haul nearly 500 tons of coal in a 10-hour shift. Barring unforeseen circumstances, and the distance traveled was not more than a half mile. According to statistics, this method of haulage was more cost effective per ton than any mechanical haulage system. Although using mules for haulage was cheaper for the mine owners than other methods. Whereas keeping and owning mules required more money for their daily maintenance, feed, care, harnesses, shoeing or any temporary injuries. Money was also expended in just keeping spare mules on hand.
The dangers a mule experienced in a mine were constantly around them, the possibility of a roof fall, or explosions, water coming into the mine and of course, all the gases they were ex posed to. In the August 10, 1882, Pottsville Miners Journal was found this tragic news item.

‘The water from the red ash workings at Preston no.2 Colliery broke through into the lower workings on Tuesday and drowned 27 mules, the miners escaped.”

Sometimes tragedy was averted at the collieries as exemplified by this fire that consumed the stables at the Otto Colliery near Branchdale. Pottsville Miners Journal January 1, 1913.

Otto Colliery Stable Burned 58 Mules Rescued-Work of Rebuilding Started at Once.
A fire of unknown origin destroyed the stable connected with the Otto Colliery Branchdale shortly after eight o’clock on Wednesday evening. The stable was two stories in height, of frame and was about 40 feet wide by 200 feet long. So suddenly did the flames burn forth that the colliery employees residing in the vicinity had a great difficulty in rescuing the 58 mules quartered there. Although a number of the volunteer fireman had a narrow escapes from serious injury and a number of the mules received slight burns, all were rescued in safety and taken to stables and barns in the vicinity. Over 30 tons of hay with the harness was destroyed. The loss is estimated a several thousand of dollars. At the time the fire broke out, neither one of the stable bosses were near the scene and neither one of them is known to smoke, as Wednesday was a holiday and all the mules were kept in the stable during the entire day, with the exception of one team which was returned to the stable shortly before four o ‘clock. The colliery whistle sounded the alarm and several streams of water were soon playing on the burning structure. The fire however, had too great headway and the barn burned to the ground.

Safety for the mules was a constant problem. Many times anyone caught hurting a mule would be immediately terminated. The introduction of electricity into the mines and the use of high voltage for the new electric mine motors, produced another type of problem for the mules. Some operations were in the process of converting their haulage system from mule power to electric power but were still using mules in conjunction with the new mine motors. So with electric wires running down the gangway and the constant wet ground any mule whose head and ears were tall sometimes had the misfortune of coming in contact with wires and were electrocuted. Fortunately, for the mine mule the Pardee Company came up with an invention. On December 3, 1919, the Pottsville Journal printed an article concerning this problem.

Maude The Mine Mule Will Wear Stylish New Bonnet

Old mine mule Maude is to wear a bonnet. They’re going to put one on her as an experiment and if she shows any signs of appreciation gets to realize that’s she is putting one over on her half-sister above ground who only gets a straw lid during the Summertime, and acts with judgment, all of her kind laboring inside will have there measures taken for headgear. No bulletins will be issued by mining companies and in this way they hope to avoid disappointment. Blonde mules and black mules will all wear black no favoritism will be shown at the bargain counter in the underground barns.
Pardee and company are responsible for the innovation. An official of the Hazleton company discovered Maude had the habit of perking her ears every time she heard an unusual sound in the darkness of the gangways. No body seemed to care whether she did or not until it was discovered the habit was costing the company hundreds of dollars.
Nine times out of ten, when Miss Mule planted her feet on a rail or a wet spot on the roadway and pointed her ears heaven ward she came in contact with the overhead wires furnishing power to the mine locomotives well then another was sent in to haul out the carcass after the electrocution. The wire always held a heavier kick than the mule, and as she always carried around four legs and two ears as circuit makers the odds were always against her.
The new bonnets will be made of rubber; and cover ears and top of head. As there are few mirrors in the mines and not every miner carries a brand new dinner pail no unnecessary time will be lost in adjusting the new toggery to take satisfaction of the wearer. The company doesn’t care what the driver boy thinks about it. If it means longer life for the mule, he is expected to overlook any unexpected air of vanity or pride she may display.
Mayhap she’ll get rubber soles and heels on her shoes and a chemically prepared powder puff later to make her immune from the dangers of everyday labor of life where daylight is unknown.

The number of mules used in a colliery varied greatly. The main factors affecting the number included the size of the workings, the amount of money expended by the companies etc. Trying to find the total number of mules used is almost impossible. There were accurate records kept for some years, and others show no listing at all. In this work, I will indicate the number of mules used in the anthracite region for a few selected years.
In the year 1879, in the Shamokin District, there were 64 collieries working, with 3,525 miners employed 505 drivers and 1,345 mules were being used. A typical large colliery such as the Luke Fiddler colliery near Shamokin employed 150 miners, 30 driver boys inside and 66 mules, 35 inside and 21 outside. While a small operation such as the George Fales colliery owned by the Philadelphia Reading Coal and Iron Company employed 216 miners, 7 drivers and they owned 16 mules. In addition, the total number of mules used in 1879 all districts was 4,108 mules.
As the years progressed, the number of mules would rise with the number of operations. In 1895, there were 7 districts working in the anthracite region and the number of mules used was 13,253. In 1900, there were 15,708 mules being used, 1905 saw 17,125 being used in the anthracite districts. And even into 1920, with electric locomotion and steam driven engines, the anthracite coal region was still employing 11,062 mules. The highest number of mules used came in 1907 with 17,500 being used throughout the anthracite coal region.
In 1880, a survey was done to show the cost of using a powered locomotive to that of a comparable number of mules. At the Ebervale colliery, using one steam-powered locomotive with an engineer and fireman, it cost the company $ 5.35 to haul 10 cars of loaded coal per trip. In comparison, it required 15 mules to do the same amount of work in the same time, and also cost the company $ 16.00 for the use of the mule requiring feed, harness, shoeing and attendance, plus the wages of the driver. The difference in cost per day was in favor of the locomotive, by the value of $10.65 per day. And the value of the locomotive was $ 3,000.00 and that of 15 mules was $ 1,920 dollars. The cost of one mule in 1880 was $160.00. Of course, there is a limit to the use of the mine locomotive for underground haulage. It can only be used for the hauling of coal from the inside turnout to the bottom of the slope. Also in the year 1880, only one engineer was fatally injured while six drivers were killed in the mines.
Beginning in the late 1880’s, technology was starting to take over the mines. With the introduction of the locomotive, the mule was in danger of being removed from the mines. Although the locomotive would eventually replace the mule as the major form of haulage in the mine, the mule still worked for many years in the dark damp bowls of the earth. On October 25, 1898, the Miners Journal printed an article concerning this subject.

Festive Mine Mule has Lost His Grip
Coal operators look for economy and speed

Success of the New Haulage System. Compressed air locomotives will eventually be introduced in all the mines of the Anthracite Region. A million and a half of money invested in mule flesh now. It costs a fortune every year to haul underground in the
old way.
The mine mule, that much abused object of alleged humor in public print and the common enemy of every man and boy employed in collieries, is at last about to realize his hopes of an earthly paradise. That is if a mule ever has any hopes and also if there is such a thing as a paradise of any kind for the long-eared beast of burden.
Ever since the first coalhole was sunk, the mule has been the favorite, though oft times expensive means of locomotion in mining coal. He turned the gin at the top of the slope, he pulled the cars of dirt and rock onto the dump and he felt his way along the narrow gangway at the head of a string of cars. And outside of his daily ration of oats and hay his only recreation was an occasional roll in the dust of the barn yard. His only pleasure was an occasional sly uplifting of his hindquarters, while his sharp shod hoofs flew out at right angles and planted themselves firmly on the bosom of some poor door boy’s pants. No man whoever worked in the mines can forget his first experience with the mine mule, when as a boy he conceived a spite against the quadrupled, and later on felt the caressing touch of the left hind hoof. He will never forget the fiendish delight expressed in that mule’s gleeful braying. And, he has ever since considered every mule in the mines his personal enemy.
But, there is to be a change. In fact, it has already been inaugurated. The miner and the mine boy will still drive for a livelihood in the dark caverns of the earth, but the mine mule will breathe the air of heaven and feed on the green pastures of picturesque hillside.
The Journal noted last week that the Reading Coal and Iron Company is preparing to introduce the air compressor locomotive as a means to haul the cars underground at the Shenandoah City Colliery. The Reading Company is not in the habit of making radical changes such as this without first knowing all about it. And, the officials of the company do know all about it. They have weighed well the advantages consequent upon parting company with the old slow going, sometimes stubborn but generally faithful mine mule.
It was about a year ago that the company first began to make preparations for this change. Alaska Colliery, near Mt. Carmel was selected as the place for making the experiment. The necessary changes were made and the machinery secured. The air compressor engine has been working there for several months and has been a great success far beyond expectations.
After all, it will be the mule trade that will be affected the most. For some years, the coal region has been the most extensive market for the mule dealers. There are many dealers in the Anthracite region alone and then there are soft coal districts, which also use mules. Few mules die, it is true, but they wear out and are crippled and killed by accidents in the mines. These cases result in a continuous steady market and most dealers make money.
From the reports of the inspectors of mines, it is estimated that over 15,000 mules work in and about the mines of the Anthracite region of Pennsylvania. The prices of mules run from $100.00 to $125.00 a head. Averaging the cost, we have the total investment of $1,400.000 in mule flesh in the Anthracite region. No attempt has been made to figure out the cost of feed and other expenses necessary to keep the livestock up to the proper standard, but it must be a tremendous item in the expense account of such a large corporation as the Reading.
And so the mine mule must go. His day is done and his usefulness in the mines is discounted by the invention of the modern man of brain. No one will ever regret the side kicking of the mine mule more than the driver boy and his colleague the door boy. They will have nothing to swear at and the festive lump of coal will not make any impression on the sides of the air compressor as it glides, smoothly over the rails with its long train of loaded cars.

The Drivers, Spraggers and Barn Bosses
The Driver
The most coveted job within the mines for an unskilled young man was that of the driver. He was usually a boy in is teens although some young men in their twenties still drove the mules. They were totally responsible for the movement of the loaded and unloaded trip of cars inside and outside the mine. The boys started out with one mule and worked their way to 6 or more mules. The drivers were the idol of the younger flippers and slate pickers and almost every young boy around the colliery couldn’t wait until he was old enough to become a driver.
The driver boys were a breed unto themselves. They chewed tobacco, smoked cigarettes and used some rather foul language. In the early years of mining, 1850’s thru 1870’s, their ethnic back grounds were mostly Irish, Welsh, Scottish and German. During the 1880’s and 1890’s, the immigration of Slavic and Italian people into the coal region changed the ethnic make up of the drivers. The big problem the Italians and Slavic people had was the language barrier. Many fights occurred between the various groups. The one thing that maintained continuity among the boys was their work. They cleaned the stables daily. They watered and feed the mules daily. The boys also curry combed the mules so that the mule’s hair would not knot and cause chafing under there traces and harnesses. Most of the boys knew how to perform different remedies to help care for an injured or sick mule. First aid was one of their primary concerns.
In the 1881 Reports of the Inspectors of mines, the duties of a driver is described. It states:
It shall be the duty of a driver to take proper care of his horse or mule, and see that it is properly fed and watered. He must not whip or abuse it unnecessarily, or allow any person to do so. He shall drive it carefully, and when ascending steep grade allow it to rest frequently. When he leaves his mule or horse at any time, he must be careful; to leave it in a place of safety, where it will be secure from run away cars or other danger. When drawing cars into a place he must be careful not to drive his mule or horse any further than the track is laid, nor into a pile of coal at or near the face, or to leave the car at a place where he has no room to pass it. If the road is in bad condition for want of filling, he shall be careful to sprag or block the cars sufficiently to prevent them from running upon himself or mule. If head or stopping blocks are used at certain points upon the gangway or main road, he shall see that they are properly placed upon the road when going up with the empty cars, so that they may be in a proper position to stop the cars before they go onto the steeper grade. If any person abuses his mule or horse he must report the same to the mine boss, nor will they be allowed to delegate any other person to take out or return their mules to the barn, nor drive their mules to or from the barn faster than a walk.

These rules were published in almost all the collieries, and in almost all the mine inspector reports. The boys were supposed to obey them to the tee. But, with youth you have bravado and not a lot of fear of danger and the boys sometimes paid no attention to the rules. In the 1873 Inspectors report under the heading of “Accidents by Mine Wagons” (wagons is the early name used in reference to a coal car) it is stated that mine wagons are principally handled by irresponsible, wild youths, that become inured to the fast driving of mules upon inclined grades as well as upon levels in the different lifts of the mines, having no retreats or loopholes along these roads for safety, but take there chances at best. These boys are subject to many disadvantages, as follows: A boy of 16 years of age may be put in charge of three or four mules, there may be three or four such teams used inside, and the haulage is generally managed under their own rules, but subject to perform duties required of them by bosses, loaders, miners etc. To a stranger this is one of the most intricate employments of man. In large mines of extensive excavations, where 250 men are at work, these brave fellows are obliged to forward the miners timbers in the morning or at the miners will, and in their passage through these wild caverns the rumbling commotion created by these trains, the firing of shots, the impenetrable powder smoke, black and fire damp, the bustle of miners and loaders, bosses and track men, these worthy boys rush on in the gloom when, in a number of cases, the space between the gangway timber will hardly admit of the passage of a wagon, over ill constructed railroads and sloughed gutters they fly at full speed, standing on the spreader chains or traces, carrying an armful of sprags at each trip to slacken speed in case of danger, yet without the slightest pity for their lot, they are hustled about by the older folks, as boys generally are. The slightest derangement to a train may cost him his life by being crushed to death by wagons, timbers, or jammed by trains, and commonly in a gloomy passage. This is without a doubt a prolific source of accidents.
In collieries that produce say 12,000 tons of prepared coal per month, it must be evident these drivers appear to be fully occupied and evidently content, with their work.
The drivers were probably the most rambunctious boys in and around the colliery, as there are many photos and picture post cards to attest to this. They were known to ride the mules bare back to and from the barn, as was usually against regulations. Many accidents happened because of there playing and Tomfoolery with the mules.
The boys learned to drive the mules without the aid of reins. They used voice commands and the crack of a whip. While standing on the front bumper of the lead car or walking close beside the animal they used the commands of “Giddup” meaning to move forward, “Whoa” to stop “ Gee “ means to turn to the right, WaHa “caused the mule to turn to the left.

Me and the Barn Boss Tommy "Mule" Symons, Doin a Livin History.
The Driver Boss or Barn Boss

The driver boss shall see that the drivers are at the stables in proper time in the morning, and ready to begin work at the appointed time. He must see that the mules are regularly feed and watered, and properly attended to, and must see that the mules are not driven up steep grades without frequently resting them. He shall see that the mules are not unnecessarily whipped or abused.
If the safety of persons or animals require a safety block or latch to be thrown across the track, near the face of working places, he shall see that one or the other be put on at once. He shall not allow door boys to leave their doors except by permission of himself or the mine boss.

Spragger or Runner

The spragger or runner was the boy who assisted the driver in the movement of the loaded and unloaded cars in the colliery. He had to be a very alert and fast acting boy who moved with the quickest of reactions. He was loaded down with an armful of sprags that he could insert in the moving wheels of the cars. This job was very dangerous as the boy could easily be run over by a car or trapped between the car and the side of the gangway.

Some Mule Reminisces

Local Schuylkill County Canal Historian, John Butz Bowman, interviewed some drivers and wrote an article entitled “The Mule In The Mines “and gives a wonderful account of what their lives were really like. Mr. Nicholas Neider from Pottsville told Bowman this story. Courtesy of the files of the Schuylkill County Historical Society.

Nicholas was a driver at the Lincoln Colliery and at one time had charge of a team there. Mine mules are generally brought in from the western states ‘Green.’ (What is meant by that is, not harness broke.) He is taken into the mines and left in the stable for a few days, to become accustomed to darkness. Then he is harnessed and left stand for a day. Next day he is put in a team. All teams in the mines are in tandem. He is left to walk alone for a few days, before being urged to put any pressure against the collar. In many cases, they try it themselves.
As time goes on and he begins to work, he is taken out of the team, taught to pull an empty car, and then two empties, once he masters that, he pulls a loaded car around. Drivers must use patience, for a loaded car is much harder to start than two empties. Once he handles the one loaded car, hang the second one on. More patience is to be used, for he knows the difference, and in many cases he refuses to pull. Give him plenty of time, and keep the cars bumped every time he stretches them, and finally he will take them away.
All this is done by walking along side of him. Once you step back, he will turn around looking for you. As days go on and he gets confidence in you, you can start to ride the cars. Next move is to teach him Gee and Haw. If he is real intelligent, he is put back in the team, to be the leader, which is very hard work; for he is asked at all times, to start the trip. He knows when the rest of the mules behind him have to do their part. Once the trip is under way, he takes it easily, until he finds it slowing up, then is when he goes to work again. A mule of this type looks for kindness, always and will never refuse his driver if it is in his power.
A strange driver for a day may spoil him, and it will take days to bring him around again. Also, in many cases, he is spoiled for good. Many mules, that are bad, can never be brought back, due to the abuse from the drivers. A mine mule can find his way in the dark for miles. Never use a whip unless absolutely necessary and then coax him so that he knows that you are still his friend.’
Mr. Bowman asked Mr. Neider whether he ever had any serious trouble with the mules, during his experience. He replied, “Only in one instance.” He had been given a green mule to train, a big fine, valuable one. After having put him through the regular routine, and the time came to put in a team, he was astounded to find the mule work as though he had been trained to mine before, which seemed almost impossible, there were no body marks of collar, britchen, or traces to bear out that fact. He was gentle, friendly, and confiding, showing no signs of viciousness. Mr. Neider took a short vacation and upon returning, found the same mule now was mean. He would try and kick him off the bumper, so that he could not ride the trip, bite kick with both hind legs and cut with the front ones. Finally, he became impossible and was left to stand in the stable. Time went by, when the superintendent called Mr. Neider into his office.
“Nick,” he said, “There is a mule in the stable eating his head off and I understand he came here a good mule, and now you can do nothing with him?”
‘That is correct. He must have been abused while I was away.”
“Well, everything, as you know, at the mines must pay, so manage to get him out and then kill him.”
Nick secured an iron bar, struck the mule back of the ear with all his might; he collapsed to the floor, whereupon he jumped upon his body, striking him with all his force. Instead of dying, the mule began to scream. He let him up. For weakness and fright he could hardly stand, showing no signs of viciousness. Nick coaxed him, took his face between his hands, showing the mule they could still be friends. He immediately put him in a team and the mule worked, but in after days, when Nick didn’t work, the mule did not work either. At the approach of the drivers, he went up in the air, front and back.
Another story told to Mr. Bowman was from Robert Allison of Port Carbon. When Mr. Allison was a young boy, he went into a mine to watch what it was like to work in the dark depths.
Mr. Allison said, “We were then taken to a loaded trip going out, and told how we must not walk behind the cars, keep together and by no means fall back, should any one’s lamp be extinguished by the dampness.”
Water dripped everywhere, my light went out, but I plodded along through the slush. At a bend of the gangway, the trip came to a large wooden door, which was used in regulating the draft of air in the mines. The mules had to stop until this gate was opened to let us through. When ready to start again, the mules were unable to budge the cars, try as they would. The gatekeeper went back into the mines, and from out of the darkness came another driver, with a large gray mule. Believe it or not, at the given command of both drivers, this mule stood up on his hind feet, placed his breast against the rear hindmost car, and pushed, walking on his hind legs until the team was well out of its difficulty.
And finally, from Mr. Bowman, a story of wonderful kindness and caring.
Mules were always trained at the mines, inside in the dark. A good mule, inside, was not always a good one outside. One boy was told by his father to take a mule to the surface and do some outside work with him. When they came to the daylight, he wouldn’t work. The boy tried everything he could think of, but to no avail. Then his mother came and she tried, exhausting all her efforts.
Finally, she said, ‘Well, I’ll fix him.” She went into the kitchen, secured a hot potato, lifted the mule’s tail and slapped it under. I told a grand-daughter of this woman, that her uncle told me this story.
“Well,” she said, “‘I am not at all surprised, as grandmother was a very capable woman.”
Sometime later, this mule was horribly burned in the mines, and was brought up to be shot. The mother protested, ‘You dare not kill him/”
The father said, “It will be up to you, he’s yours. I wash my hands of him.”
She bathed the mule in sweet oil, padded him with cotton, attended him like a child, and finally healed all his burns. When they wanted to take in back into the mines, she said, ‘Oh, no. He belongs to me.”
He became quite a pet in the neighborhood, and the children had a good time riding him about the patch. When let out of the stable each morning, he would first go to the back gate and bray for the woman, who would come out, pet him and wash his scares.
For the most part, the boys treated the mules with love and affection and in return the mules had their favorite drivers like wise.
One of the most famous stories about a driver and his mule is the story of the 11-year-old mule driver named Martin Crahan. Marty worked in and out of the mines for over two years. In 1871, while working in the West Pittston mine, there was a major shaft fire. Marty could have escaped the fire by riding up the cage, but elected to return deep into the mine to alert 19 miners of the fire. Marty told the miners and ran to the cage, which to his dismay had been consumed by the fire. He once again went back to the miners who had barricaded themselves against the deadly fire and fumes, he begged to be let into their safe haven, but they refused. Marty then went to the stables were he found his mule and they both died together. The other 19 miners also died from the effects of the fire.

The danger drivers and spraggers encountered is listed count less times in the reports of the mine inspectors, from the 1870’s through the 1930’s. The most common type of accident was being squeezed by mine cars, kicked by a mule or run over by cars. Drivers and runners are the principal sufferers of being crushed by mine cars. In 1876, the Annual Report of the Inspectors stated, “These accidents are generally the result of reckless daring on the part of the boys, and the narrow main roads, which are frequently obstructed by rubbish.”
How often the inspector is notified that a driver has been killed or seriously injured by being crushed between cars and the pillar, between cars and props or by falling under cars. Then again, the drivers very often attempt to couple cars while they are in motion. This they should never do and the driver bosses should prohibit the practice at once. If these boys were outside, in broad daylight then, the practice might be excusable, for then they would be able to see any obstruction that might be lying in there way and avoid them. But, underground they are comparatively in midnight darkness, and cannot see but a few yards in advance at best, and they are hence liable to be thrown under or between the cars. Every effort should be made by our colliery managers to save these boys lives.
Listed in the Reports of the inspectors of the mines for 1883 are some of the accidents that drivers and spraggers endured. Mike Contra, an Italian driver was fatally injured by being thrown from a mule near Milnesville. He was riding his mule from the stable when the animal became frightened and made a sudden plunge. He was thrown and in falling, became entangled in the harness; the mule becoming thoroughly frightened ran away dragging him about a half mile before being caught. When he was released from the harness, his head was reduced to a soft mass by the bumping against the ground. In another accident, George Nesbitt a 14-year-old driver was fatally injured at Ebervale No. 3 colliery on the 20th of September. He was driving empty cars from the foot of the slope and was walking behind his mule when he was suddenly kicked in the abdomen. His injuries were not considered severe at the time, but after a few hours his condition betokened internal injuries. The inspector also added. I am of the opinion that some of the small boys about the colliery bothered the mule so that he became ugly, and endeavored to kick them.
Many boys were injured by the direct interaction of the mule. Mike Grady a 16 year old driver at the Diamond Shaft was severely injured by having both legs crushed when his mule stomped all over him. James Walker, 14 years old, was injured at the Eddy Creek Shaft, when his mule’s head hit him on the arm and breaking it. He was holding the mules head while being shod at the blacksmith shop.At the end of this part will be found a listing for the 1880 and all the driver and spragger accidents that occurred in the Anthracite districts. Driver boys sometimes became heroes as this article of The Pottsville Republican stated on March 26, 1914.

Bold Driver Boy Saved Six Lives
The bravery of a driver boy, who although severely burned by an explosion of gas in the Buck Ridge Colliery near Shamokin Friday morning drove a long distance to the foot of the slope and informed the foreman that six mine workers were lying in the bottom of the gangway probably overcome by the afterdamp of the explosion, resulted in bringing out of the six men senseless and the saving of there lives. Now the plucky boy, whose name is Tom Swabusky, is looked upon as a hero and lies bandaged and brushed in the Shamokin Hospital.
Tom was riding on the top of a car directing his team of mules when he saw a ball of fire ahead in the gangway, and knowing that it meant an explosion of gas he shouted an alarm to six workmen in the gangway nearby and saw them throw them selves face downward on the bottom but he himself had tarried too long and was caught by the flash before he could get down to the bottom and his face and hands were scorched severely. Nothing daunted he drove the mules, also suffering from burns and gave his alarm as stated.

Giving the driver boy his instructions, a living history in Pioneer Tunnel, Ashland.

Listed below is a list of all the driver boy accidents for the year 1880 in the Anthracite districts of Pennsylvania. The accidents are basically the same for every year from 1870 thru 1930.

The Driver Boys and Their Accidents

§ Mar 15/ Joseph Dix/ 15 Wadsville/ Fell from the front end of a wagon on which he was riding and dragged underneath injuring him internally.
§ Apr. 16/ Daniel Oakman/ Top driver/ Wadsville/ Thumb caught between car wheel and sprag. And cut off.
§ Apr. 16/ John Murphy/ Phoenix Park Caught between wagons and injured internally.
§ Apr. 17/ William Weakman/ Pottsville/ Wagon ran over his leg injuring it severely.
§ May 24/ George Wagne/ Dirt Bank Driver/ Glendower/ Fingers caught in a wheel and mashed.
§ May 26/ Thomas Wilson/ Diver/ Pottsville/ Kicked by a mule and head cut.
§ June 7/ William E Price/ Driver/ Wadesville/ Kicked by a mule and nose broken and chin cut.
§ .June 14/ James Hayes/ Driven Beechwood/ wagon ran over his fingers cutting off at first joint.
§ Sept. 28/ James McCreedy/ Driver/ Glendower/ Kicked by a mule and leg injured.
§ Nov. 15/ David W. Peregrine/ Driver/ Mine Hill Gap. Kicked by a mule hip hurt.
§ Nov. 23/ George Jenkins/ Driver/ Richardson/ While spragging a car thumb caught between sprag and wheel and broke.

1880 2nd District
§ May 14/ Peter Cleary/ Driver/ Ellangowan/ In attempting to un couple cars on a curve, his head was caught and crushed causing death.
§ May 18/ William Henderson/ Driver/ 16/ Packer No. 4/ Supposed to have been tramped to death by a mule. A breast closing in caused the mule to turn suddenly around passing the car to which he was hitched and catching the driver, Henderson.
§ Sept. 18/ John Dyer/ Driver/ Indian Ridge/ 22/ Married/ Crushed between Cars on side of the gangway on trip from counter chute to top of plane.
§ Feb. 3/ Charles Maloy/ Elmwood/ Fell under cars and arm broke.
§ Feb. 11/ Mike Coyne/ Driver on dirt bank/ Ellangowen/ Foot caught between rails and shoulder broke.
§ Feb. 12/ John Hendricks/ Driver/ Thomas/ Hurt on the dirt bank.
§ Mar 18/ Oscar McCord/ Driver/ William Penn/ Jammed between cars by Mule.
§ Apr. 26/ John Preston/ Driver/ Kohinoor/ Fall of coal, small bone of leg broke.
§ June 7/ Edward Williams/ Driver/ Girard/ Explosion of gas.
§ July 7/ Mike Gallagher/ Driver/ Honeybrook/ Foot crushed by mine car.
§ Sept. 18/ Martin Fahey/ Driver/ Plank Ridge/ Jammed between cars and head injured.
§ Nov. 8/ John Snedden/ Driver/ Plank Ridge/ Wagon Jumped the track, knocking the prop, causing a piece of slate to fall arm badly injured.
§ Nov. 24/ Thomas Ellwork/ Driver/ Stanton/ Fell under
wagon between slope and breaker; body crushed.
§ Nov. 26/ Peter Ditchman/ Driver Ellangowan/ Run over by dirt dumper, leg broken in two places.

3rd District
§ May 3/ Mike Douglas/ Driver Lykens Valley slope/ 20/ The driver coming in with a mule for loaded wagons, having come to a point on the gangway beyond which the use of naked lamps were prohibited and seeing men ahead with open lights, called to them if it was safe, to which they replied to him, “To come on” which he did; the men were eating their dinner, and while he was hitching his mule wagon, the men started turning a fan to remove gas that accumulated in a chute they were driving, this brought the gas down in the gangway and contact with the naked lamps. Burning the three.
§ Sept. 1/ William Wolfe/ Driver/ 18/ Big Mountain/ Run over by loaded mine cars.
§ Nov. 15/ Patrick Finnegan/ Driver/ Preston No.2/ 21/ Run over by loaded mine cars, died the following day
§ Nov. 23/ Daniel E. Liebey/ Driver/ 17/ Peerless/ Caught between loaded mine cars and gangway timber at mouth of the drift. He was coming out loaded wagons accompanied with two other boys and when outside the mouth of the drift, being ahead of the wagon he turned back going towards approaching cars, passing the young men who were with him , supposing as they have stated, to jump
§ June 14/ James Hayes/ Driver/ Beechwood/ wagon ran over his fingers cutting off at first joint.
§ Sept. 28/ James McCreedy/ Driver/ Glendower/ Kicked by a mule and leg injured.
§ Nov. 15/ David W. Peregrine/ Driver/ Mine Hill Gap./ Kicked by a mule, hip hurt.
§ Nov. 23/ George Jenkins/ Driver/ Richardson/ While spragging a car thumb caught between sprag and wheel and broke.
§ Nov. 26/ Daniel Kennedy/ Driver/ 15/ Luke Fidler/ Caught between loaded mine cars and crushed to death. He hitched his mule to two loaded mine cars to haul out of the mine, having started the mule, he became obstinate and refused to go further. While the driver was urging him on he turned around and started inwards on opposite side of the car to the driver, the latter jumping between the cars to drive him back, he was caught and jammed by the front car to which the mule was hitched, coming back on one next to it.
NOTE: In some collieries, drivers, spraggers and door boys are using a villainous compound called lubricating, or black oil to fill their lamps, which is producing a heavy black smoke producing unhealthy air.
§ Jan 23/ Edward McHugh/ Stable Boss/ Locust Spring/ Kicked by a mule in the stomach.
§ Mar 8/ David Moire/ Driver/ Henry Clay Drift/ Caught between mule and mine wagon/ jaw bone broken and face badly damaged.
§ April 7/ Sebastian Kohl/ Spagger/ Burnside/ Hand caught between chain and side hook of the wagon. Tops of the fingers cut off.
§ April 19/ Charles Frank/ Driver/ Reliance/ Spreader fell on his wrist dislocating it.
§ May 5/ Jerome Reed/ Driver/ Henry Clay shaft/ caught in explosion of gas.
§ .Aug. 8/ John Henry/ Outside driver/ Buck Ridge/ Fell on bell plane while trying to ring bell wrist broken.
§ Sept. 23/ William McKinney/ Driver/ Big Mountain/ Fell of wagon while running down the plane arm broken.
§ Oct. 13/ George Krammer/ Driver/ North Franklin No.2/ Caught between cars leg fractured.
§ Oct. 21/ Patrick Coyle/ Driver/ Stuartsville/ Fall of top coal.
§ Oct. 25/ Christopher Robsertson / door tender/ Luke Fidler/ Fell while riding on mine cars.
Middle District
William J Warren, a driver, was instantly killed on the culm bank. He was fifteen years old. At No. 2 shaft Plymouth. He was making one of his usual trips to the culm bank with loaded cars. John Nesbitt was on the hind car, attending the brake, and John Warren, the deceased’s brother was riding on the side of the car. When about halfway to the dump Willie struck the mule with his whip and started him on faster, then he attempted to step on the front end of the car, and missed his hold, fell under and was instantly killed.
James Danahey, a driver age 16 was almost instantly killed at Shaft No. 2 Nanticoke on Dec. 11. The deceased, against all instructions to the contrary, undertook to run a loaded car from the gangway by a brake. To do this he was obliged to stand on the front end of the car, as the lever of the brake was on that end. The brake proved to be a bad one and the car ran pretty fast and when near the bottom of the run jumped off the track and threw the driver against the prop with such force as to fracture his skull. The mine boss stated that the day before he caught him running a car and charged him not to do it again, for he considered it to dangerous for a boy of such light weight. And, he had employed a runner for just such a job. But, he was an active boy, ambitious, and anxious to earn more wages, and had asked several times for the job of running cars, which he was refused to him on the grounds stated. On that fateful morning another boy told him the brake was not safe and to be careful, he replied that he would risk it, he did and sacrificed his young life in the attempt.
Thomas McGlynn, a driver age 16 was fatally injured at the Diamond Shaft, November 29. He was walking out carelessly on the gangway, along with his mule and a trip of cars and thoughtlessly set his foot between a latch and the rail, his foot was caught fast and failed to release it until the cars were upon him, they crushed his leg fearfully, between foot and knee. Hope was entertained of saving his life by amputating the limb, but the surgeons had hardly begun the operation when he expired.
John Dunstan, a driver age 14, was instantly killed at Shaft No. 2 Nanticoke, December 21. He had just pilled an empty car into the chamber, which was pitching about four degrees, was leading his mule back and the trace chain caught in the corner of the car, Jerking it over the block. The same time the mule swung against the boy and knocked him down on the track. The laborer, who stood by, held the car almost instantly, but as the boy was rising he received a thrust (kick) in his side, which caused his death in a few minutes. This was a very unfortunate accident, occurring in a safe place and could have been easily avoided with little care, as there was plenty of room to pass the mule without touching the car.
§ July 30/ Patrick Welsh/ Driver 23/ Midville/ Kicked in the mouth by a mule losing two teeth.
§ July 20/ Gomer Lewis/ Driver/ 15/ Nanticoke Tunnel no. 1/ Kicked by a mule.
§ Sept. 6/ John Hughes/ Driver/ 14/ Old Slope Franklin/ Slopped under loaded cars.
§ July 10/ Leo Dutch/ Driver/ 13/ Hollenbach/ Kicked by mule teeth knocked out.
§ Sept. 13/ William Devlin/ 17/ Henry Coil./ Kicked in the head by a mule.
§ Nov. 19/ David Evans/ Slope No. 4/ severely injured, his clothes being caught in the trace of a mule the mule was fright ened was frightened and dragged the boy for some distance.
Eastern District
Edward Watkins, a driver at the Brisbin shaft, was fatally injured by being caught under a trip of empty mine cars. He was driving a team of mules and had them hitched to a trip of eleven cars, when the mules started and ran away down a steep grade that required two sprags in each car. The mules ran until they reached the chamber, Watkins hanging on the harness of the hind mule all the way, but he finally lost his light and fell before the trip, and the two forward cars ran over him and he was found lying under the third car. The men who were present made all haste to free him from under the car, not with standing that the roof was cracking fearfully over their heads and they had just moved him when a large portion of the roof fell just were the boy was lying.
These mules or rather one of them was in the habit of running away, they would balk, and when they started they would run as hard as they could. As far as possible, all such factious mules should be banished out of the mines, and if I could I would do so this at once. I am happy to state that some of our most efficient superintendents do not keep unruly and fractious mule in their mines for an hour after they find they are dangerous and unsafe for the boys to handle.
§ 1,136 drivers employed in mines
§ John Yates 18 fatally injured while falling under a trip of cars while hitching his mule. Maitby Shaft
§ August Sheffler driver 19, Shaft No. 1 G seam Nanticoke A piece of scrap steel penetrated his body when riding on front of car.
§ John McLaughlin Driver 19 Ashley, Kicked in the abdomen by mule walked home and died a couple of days later.
§ George Mashinko driver 31 killed by having his head smashed between timber car
§ Emry Jones was killed when he was kicked by the mule in a manway he was 16 years old. The Hollenback colliery.
§ John Griffth was instantly killed when he was trying to spragg a car and it ran off the track and crushed him he was 20 years old worked at the Franklin Colliery.
§ James 0 Connell was instantly killed when he slipped and was crushed by a car when he was unhooking his mule. He was 17 and worked at the Shaft No. 5 in Plymouth.
§ Thomas Duffy a driver’s helper was injured and had five teeth kicked out by a mule he was 17 and worked at the Plymouth Colliery.
§ 29 drivers and runners were injured in the 4 district during this year.
§ John Trsco or Freda and John Martin 25 and 35 both out side drivers at the Milnesville colliery were instantly killed by a landslide, they were taking a trip of cars to the bottom of the slope or to the outside plane.
§ William Lilly a spragger was injured when he slipped and fell underneath a car his arm was badly injured this happened at the No. 1 breaker in Lattimer.
§ Joseph Coulon was struck by a bale of hay and his leg was injured he was 18 years old and worked at the No. 2 Hollywood breaker.
§ Adam Trimble a 22-year-old driver was struck on the head by a door when a gust of air blew it open which was caused by a heavy fall of rock. He suffered a brain contusion. This happened at the Sandy Run Colliery Luzerne City.
§ Harry Reilley an Irish driver 19 years old who worked at the Maple Hill colliery was injured when his clothes were caught and he was squeezed by a car and the brattice.
§ John Chisnell 22 working at the Bear Ridge Colliery skull was fractured after he was kicked by a mule.
§ John Everman 19 a driver at the Packer No. 4 Lost Creek was had his arm cut off he left the switch misplaced and coming on to the turn out the loaded car ran into an empty truck.
§ There were 855 drivers and runners in the 7 anthracite district in 1895.
§ 8th district of Schuylkill county had 433 drivers and runners employed.
§ They also had 1,258 mules and horses in the mine.
§ William Dunlap 17 working at the Eagle Hill colliery died from the effects of being caught between two mine cars at the bottom of the slope.
§ Thomas Gauntlett a driver at Blackwood colliery was in jured by being crushed up against a prop by his mule collarbone broken.
§ John Roberts a driver at Morea colliery was injured when his hand was crushed while unhooking his mule.
§ Harmony Richardson at the St. Clair Colliery had three ribs broken when his mule turned and crushed him between the cars.
§ Patrick Hughes a driver 18, was injured in the jaw when a mule kicked him. Hyde Park Colliery.
§ John Ratchford was injured when a mule kicked him in the face, he was 17 at the Manville Mine.
§ James McAndrew was injured at the Archablad mine he was 15 years old, his leg was fractured while riding a mule and drove up against the mine car.
§ Ben Morgan was injured when a mule kicked him in the head his scalp was cut this happened at the he was 16 at the Mt. Pleasant colliery.
§ August Speyler a 20-year-old driver was driving a team and they ran away and in trying to catch them he became in tangled in the harness and fell under the car giving him severe bruises.
§ Max peel 23-year-old runner was injured at the Dickson Shaft when he was caught by a moving car while trying to hitch a team of mules.
§ The 3 district had 2,270 mules and horses during the year.
§ Joe Macusky 20 at the Maple Hill colliery was fatally injured by being kicked from the mule he was driving.
§ Matthew Brennan a driver was severely injured at the Eagle Hill Colliery on May 5th and died from the effects on May 17. He was engaged as a driver at the bottom of the slope and side hitched two empty cars into the back switch, while he was taking some coupling chains from the front end of the empty cars, another driver ran three loaded cars into the back switch, which bumped against the empty ones and caught Brennan between the ends of the empty cars and the face of the back switch.
§ John Harrison, 17 a driver was killed at Eagle Hill colliery on August 12. He was employed as a driver at the bottom of the slope and commenced work only the day before. In pulling the empty cars into the back switch at the bottom of the fifth lift he hitched a mule to the back end of the second car, the front end of which was filled with short timber. The light end of the car swung off the track and caught his head between the end of the car and the timber.
§ August Dunhammer 20-year-old driver at York Farm Colliery had his leg broken by the mules falling and throwing him under cars.1897
§ William Wolf a driver was killed at The Good Spring colliery. He was employed on the bank, and while bringin’ an empty car his mule took fright at cars running on overhead trestle and ran away. While trying to unhitch the mule from the car, he fell in front of the car, which ran over him. Injuring him so severely that he died on the way home.

The Mule and Driver Boys in Song and Verse
The mule and the driver are well known in both song and verse, the traditional song of “My Sweethearts the Mule in the Mine,” listed on the first page is probably the most famous of the songs and known for many years. But, there are other versus related to the driver boy’s and the mules.
In the sad old song entitled Old Miners Refrain, the old miner sings about his life in the mines and in one verse relates about his time while driving mules:

I next became a driver and thought myself a man
The boss, he raised my pay as I advanced
In going through the gangway with the mules at my command.
I was prouder than the President of France.

But now my pride is weakened and I am weakened too.
I tremble till I’m scarcely fit to stand
If I were taught book learning instead of driving teams
Today kind friends I’d be a richer man.

On Wednesday, April 23, 1879, at the No. 10 slope of the Lehigh And Wilkes-Barre Coal company at Sugar Notch a gang of men were driving a gangway into a seam of coal when the roof caved in and blocked their only means of escape. Trapped inside this tomb were five miners and a 13-year-old door boy and a young mule driver by the name William Kenney. After five days, the miners were forced to kill the mule for its meat. Using a hammer the driver hit the mule on the head and killed him. They then checked for any gas left in the mine, and finding it clear, they cooked the meat on the top of a dinner pail. The seven men were finally rescued at 9 o’clock on Monday morning. Following is a couple of stances from this song about their ordeal.
The Sugar Notch Entombment
It was in the month of April in 1879,
When seven men from Sugar Notch came to work down in the mine,
The night shift was before them and honest they began;
The driver came and told them that the mine was cavin’ in

Pricey held the safety lamp and Harper he was last,
Mackkie he put up his hand and shut off the gas,
The rocks stood on their edges up against the roof
and here we stand for proof.

We walked in the gangway and there we sat down,
We held a conversation and it went all around,
Some were very hungry and some were very weak,
Says Johnny Glynn, “We’ll kill our mule and have a jolly feast.”

The driver went and got his mule and tied him to a prop,
The tears came rolling from his eyes, saying
“Harry you must drop.”
On picking up the hammer he found the hammer to be dull-
He hit the poor mule ten times on the head before he broke his skull.

“Harry, you’re dead and gone, your life is gone astray.
But many a hundred wagons you’ve pulled out of this gangway.
Many a driver’s drove you but now you’re drivin’s at an end.”
And then the mine began to cave in around the seven men.

Me and My Butty Tommy Symons, Singin "The Driver Boys of Wadesville Shaft" at the Wooden Keg, St. Clair

The Driver Boys of Wadesville Shaft written by Bill Keating
the famous Schuylkill County poet and balladeer , is the best of the songs written about the boys and their mules and is a fine tribute to the boys who drove the mules.

The Driver Boys of Wadesville Shaft
Now, boys I’ll sing you a little song,
And I think that when I’m through
Yu’ll say this song is well composed,
And the words are very true.

It’s about a bunch of driver boy’s,
They worked in Wadesville shaft,
And when I tell you how they toiled
I think ‘twill make you laugh.

Well, now to start this little song,
I’ll begin with Henry Flynn,
For when it comes to driving mules
He thinks he’s the real thing.

He’s the first driver from the barn,
With Collie-mule in lead,
But when he gets back, at quitting time,
he hasn’t earned their feed

He leaves the seven foot turnout,
With six or seven cars,
They’ll run out to the spragging place,
And there he’ll be stuck for hours!

He’ll drag them then by ones and twos
to the bottom of the shaft;
Then he’ll catch his lead mule by the head,
and go for another draft.

Well, then he’ll start from the spraggin place,
And run right through an open switch!
With two stiff cars and a jammer in,
And his lead mule in the ditch.

Well, then he’ll drive them up the grade,
Collie runs on the high side,
Johnny Loftus with an armful of sprags
Is what saves the breechin’ mule’s hide.

Then Henry’ll say that Collie-mule
And Charley ain’t worth a bit;
I hate to call the man a liar,
But they’re the best two mules in the pit.

It takes us door boys all our time,
To keep Henry Flynn in hemp,
And with weaving lashes for his whip
Our fingernails are bent.

So that’s the way he’ll run all day,
He’ll tally about fourteen cars;
For the longest shift he ever works
In six or seven hours.

Well, then there’s Oweny Loftus,
With a team of mules he’s slick;
And when he chirrups for the signal light,
Then look out for a big trip.

When Oweny’s team leaves the Primrose bend,
Their shoes begin to pound,
And until he hits the top of the grade,
He’ll never utter a sound.

‘Twould do you good to stand upon
The crossroads at the bend;
And watch the curb boy count Oweny’s trip-
Twenty cars often mark the end.

He has Fox and Dick and Paddy and Mike;
Lively Lark- Mule leads the way,
If all the teams pulled trips like Oweny’s
Wadesville colliery would surely pay.

Well, here comes Jack McNulty,
Out along west Skidmore line;
With his feet stretched out on the tail chain,
Old John Garrity nippin’ behind.

When Jack’s team nears the terminal,
Jack hopes he’ll get a through light,
But when he rounds the Skidmore bend
Then there’s no curb-boy in sight!

Then Jack jumps off sprags up his trip,
At dumb door boys he’ll rage and swear;
And if the nipper opens his lip,
Jack hauls him around by the hair.

You see, nearly every trip Jack brings,
He has tunnel-rock cars mixed in,
So. of course, we have to red light Jack,
So’s to white light Henry Flynn.

Jack drives Punch mule, Pete, Pet, Prince,
Lazy Mary Mule leads the way.
If Jack would haul more coal, less rock,
Then the breaker could work a full day.

Well then there’s Johnny Baltsis,
He drives the shifting team;
He pulls the cars from the tender shaft,
and keeps the bottom turn out clean.

Johnny Baltsis’ the busiest boy about,
The way he slaves is a sin!
Pullin Jack McNulty’s rock cars out,
And side hitchin’ Henry Flynn.

They talk about the Altoona Yards,
But Altoona yards are tame,
You should see John Baltsis shifting cars!
With Jerry mule and Jane.

Some other time, I’ll sing some more,
“Bout the busy driver boys.
At present, I’ll page the stable “Maids”
Stable bosses are mostly noise.

Willie Brennan is quiet, seldom gets in fight,
Bossy Donnagan, he’s a darn crank!
They worry me from morn till night,
With there rollin’ feed cars and water tank.

They chase me to get the water turned on,
Then they race me to get it turned off
But when drivers take their teams for a drink,
There’s never a drop in the water trough!

They haven’t the nerve for stable work,
If a mule shakes his tail they are scared!
And in case of an emergency,
They never are prepared.

If a hame strap or a tail chain happens to break,
That a team driver’s tally will sink,
There’s no harness parts in the barn,
Not even an open link.

Poor mules must stand knee deep in dung!
So the company’s greatest loss,
Is payin’ sixty dollars a month
To a lazy stable boss.

The fire bosses, foremen and driver boss,
Took a seashore vacation trip;
Willie Brennan carried the bootblack box,
Jim Donnagan juggled the grips.

The driver boys and the stable boss,
from my song should learn a lesson,
And now I’ll begin with the bottom men,
For some of them need a dressin’.

There easy going fat Jack Betzs,
Jack jokes and loafs all day,
While old “Dutch” Hen is humpty backed
Pushin cars from the cage away.

Matt Reddington, a butty to Betzs,
And though Matt’s a first cousin of mine
Matt goes to dances and balls every night;
In the mines he’s asleep most of the time.

Mike McNulty gets stuck with an empty trip,
Jack Betzs bawls all hands out
Matt Reddington lets a coupling slip
Onto Dutch Hen’s left foot gout!

“The breaker is waitin’; this won’t pay.
Move those empties, “Betzs will say
Then Dutch Hen will say in his Dutchy’ied way,
“Be der lawd Kyist der twack is blocked out!”

In insane asylums madmen rave,
But where sensible men go daft,
You’d go nutty too with that bug house crew,
On the bottom of Wadesville shaft.

Bunker John Kelly and Joe Morley,
They’ve the meanest job in the mine;
Double oil cloth suits and high gum boots,
Yet they’re drowned wet all the time.

No moon, no stars, no sun ever gleams
Through the gloom of the underground;
Here danger death, and darkness reign,
Yet humor here is found.

It’s quittin’ time, I’ll close my door,
Just one request, I pray:
My supper will be crust, no more,
Please boost a poor door boy’s pay.

The driver boys are long gone, their mischievous behavior, their tobacco chewing, their swearing and wild antics are all just memories now. We should honor the boys who worked in the dark of the mines, bent and stooped, damp and wet, inhaling mine gases and coal dirt and sometimes giving up there young lives for the coal companies. Today, there are no mules working in the mines of the anthracite region. They no longer bear the burden of pulling cars loaded with coal through the wet and muddy gang- ways, in the endless darkness of the mines. They no longer are subject to being crushed in a cave-in or being burned in a gas explosion, or drowning in an outburst of water. Although there are sad stories concerning the boys and their mules, there are also many good stories about their lives. Driver boy and mule spent many years together and what they sacrificed for our comfort should never be forgotten. Finally, it took an act of Legislature in December, 1965, to make it illegal, in keeping mules in underground stables.

Me and my Grandson Nathaniel at work doing a living history in the Pioneer Tunnel, Ashland

1. Pottsville Miners Journal Newspaper
October 11, 1911.
January 1, 1913.
December 3, 1919.
October 25, 1898.
2. Pottsville Daily Republican
March 8, 1915.
March26, 1914.
3. Shamokin Times, May 14, 1880.
4. Mahanoy City Newspaper, March 4, 1890.
5. McClures Magazine 1894 “The Depths of a Coal Mine” Stephen Crane.
6. Mine Haualge Systems Manual 1927.
7. “Songs and Ballads of the Coal Miner,” George Korson. United Mine Workers Journal
November, 15, 1926
8. “Anthracite Mine Ballads and Legends Recalled” Shenandoah Evening Herald May 8, 1924. Tom Barrett.
9. Inspector Reports of the Mines.
11. When Coal was King, Louis Poliniak.
12. “The Mules in the Mines,” Article by John Butz Bowman, Held in the Schuylkill County Historical Society.

Why does Anthracite History matter?
It is very hard to make a young person understand why history matters. After all, they have their whole lives ahead of them. There is only the future. The young still feel invincible, immortal, and in charge. It is not until we come to grips with our mortality that we begin to care about who we are and what we have done.
Will it matter that we were here at all?
We have not cared about history, so who will care about us?
Once faced with these questions, it becomes important for us to know where we came from. To search out our past and discover what made us the way we are. This is why Anthracite his tory is so important. We have coal in our blood and thus the collective history of producing that coal becomes important. We get a burning de sire to remember those who worked so hard to give us what we have today.
For all we have, we remember them and thank them.
For all we want, we record it for the time when our children are ready to hear it.